Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

“Sweet summer rain. Like God’s own mercy.” — “O Brother, Where Art Thou”

“That looks ominous,” I thought to myself while looking at a dark cloud approaching as I waited at a crosswalk in Watertown on Tuesday. Channel 7 News had said we might get some heavy storms in Boston, but it was sunny when I left for my jog a half-hour before. “If I turn back now, I should get home in plenty of time.”

Then this dude ruined those plans. I’ve been jogging off and on for the past three years, and I get weirdly competitive with complete strangers. Generally, if I can see a person running ahead of me, I will attempt to pass him/her. Even if the person is clearly in better shape than me (aka, most of them), I will start speeding up to see how much I can close the gap. And this guy was wearing a headband. And a sleeveless T-shirt. To quote the band Titus Andronicus, “The enemy is everywhere.”

So I decided to continue the run. When the light switched to the little white-outlined guy, I sprinted across the street. The sleeveless-shirt dude, not realizing he was now in a race, was soon far behind. Having declared myself the winner, I looked up at the cloud that was now directly overhead and decided to head back to my apartment. After about 30 seconds, it started to drizzle. A few seconds later, hail started to fall. Then, a torrential downpour, mixed in with hail. BOOM! Also, lightning and thunder! “Things are not good,” I thought.

I kept running for a bit. Maybe the storm would be brief. A piece of hail bounced off the top of my Dallas Cowboys hat. I started running with my hands placed on the top of my head. Protect the cranium, for it is filled with wisdom. My shorts, soaked, started to slip downward. One hand now protected the cranium, while the other kept me from not running around in just my boxer briefs. “Things are not good,” I thought again.

More lightning. More thunder. Take shelter! My options were to hide under some trees, fall to the ground and assume the fetal position or jump in the Charles River. So I JUMPED IN THE RIVER. No, that’s not true. I hid under some trees. That seemed to be the smartest idea. Was it? I clearly made it through the storm, as I am now typing this, so, yes — yes it was.

While hiding under the trees, I did the only thing a person in my position would do: I pulled out my iPod so I could take a picture. Gotta Instagram this hailstorm! However, the conditions were too severe for gramming. A moment lost in time. I must ask you, the reader, to forgive me for this.  If you would like to simulate what I went through, I suggest you fill up your bathtub halfway with water, step in, turn on the shower and throw ice cubes at yourself every 30 seconds.

After failing to Instagram this magic moment, I put my iPod away, tilted my head backward and let the rain wash over me. Within 10 seconds, I entered a state of complete serenity. Minutes later, the rain stopped.

I resumed my jog. Soon, I passed a young lady who had also clearly got caught out jogging during the storm. We smiled at each other. Then a man approached riding a bicycle. He was completely dry, pedaling with neither hand on the handlebars. He wore a headband and a sleeveless shirt.

I assumed the fetal position.

Brian Cougar

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Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

(WWE Network)
(WWE Network)

“Mrs. Hart used to come down, make them sandwiches, throw on that bologna. Of course only one piece of bologna, but that don’t matter, I was hungry!” — “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper passed away on Friday of a heart attack at 61. Piper is best known from his time as a heel in the 1970s and ’80s, but my first memories of Piper are of him as a good guy in the early ’90s. I loved him as a kid because he was incredibly entertaining and because his theme music was bagpipes, which I thought meant Piper was Irish (he was not). My all-time favorite memory/match involving Piper involves him taking on Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.

Before the match, the two are being interviewed by Mene Gene Okerlund. Hart doesn’t say anything until the end of the interview, with Piper, not surprisingly, going on a rant. Now, both were “good guys” at this time — Piper was champion, having defeated the evil Canadian Mountie for the belt at the Royal Rumble — but Piper being a good guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be kind of a jerk. He doesn’t hit Hart with a coconut, but he spends his entire time talking taking minor jabs at the Hitman while reminiscing about growing up together until it ends with them standing face to face ready to throw a punch.

The match itself is also very good. Hart has always been known for his in-ring skills, while Piper’s style was more of a brawler. Here is the PLAY BY PLAY I did while watching post-work at 3 in the morning:

Wrestle normal match, basic moves. Hart dumps him, Piper spits on Hart. Piper calms, challenges him to test of strength. Hart appears to hurt shoulder, Piper backs off, Hart small package. Piper loses it, slaps him in the face. They both dump over the rope. CHANGE. Piper holds ropes so Hart can get back into the ring, fans cheer, Hart goes to fix his boot, then Piper punches him in the face. Piper starts brawling, busts Hart open. Biting. Hart comeback with FIVE MOVES OF DOOM.

Piper throws Hart into ref while trying to escape headlock. Ref = KNOCKED OUT. Piper grabs bell. Reluctant to use it. Fans pleading no. Heenan, “Give it to me, I’ll hit him!” Piper drops bell, puts Hart in sleeper. Hart uses turnbuckles to push Piper back, gets the 1, 2, 3.

It’s a great storyline for a match, with Hart wrestling a bit dirtier than usual because A) he wants to be champ and B) he knows it’ll rile Piper up. Piper, on the other hand, tries to keep things clean at the beginning, reverts to his more dirty-pool ways for a bit after Hart ticks him off, then, when he has the chance to slam Hart in the head with the bell for the easy victory, he does the RIGHT THING (which causes him to, uh, lose).

After the match, Piper returns to the ring, hands Hart the belt then secures it around his waist. They exit the ring together. The match basically ends up being this …

“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

… in wrestling form.

RIP Piper.

Brian Cougar

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July

Saturday is the 4th of July. On Sunday, Van Halen kick off their 2015 tour. On July 4, 2004, David Lee Roth played with the Boston Pops in the greatest 4th of July performance of all time. I’m not saying it’s the reason I ended up moving to Boston nine years later, but let’s just say as a matter of fact it is.

David Lee Roth is a ludicrous human being. He was the frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of all time, split with them when they were at their most popular, spent the next 20 or so years releasing solo albums of varying degrees of success, put out an entertaining autobiography, got arrested in Washington Square Park for purchasing $5 worth of pot, reunited with Van Halen, immediately got booted from Van Halen, toured with Sammy Hagar, somehow became the person chosen to replace Howard Stern, got fired from that gig and eventually reunited with Van Halen again, although — since they’re Van Halen — his return signaled the end of original bassist Michael Anthony’s time in the band, as Eddie Van Halen brought in his son, Wolfgang, to play bass. The latest incarnation of Van Halen has actually held together, although fans always assume the whole thing could blow up at any moment.

In the summer of 2002, I attended the Hagar/Roth show in Scranton, Pa. Hagar opened and was a good time despite his Hard rock Jimmy Buffet shtick. Roth closed and strutted out with platinum blonde hair and a skin-tight pink jumpsuit. His performance was … not well received by the crowd. My buddy Mike and I had purchased David Lee Roth T-shirts. On the way out to the parking lot after the show, a guy behind us started singing a reworked version of Roth’s solo song “Just Like Paradise,” changing the lyrics to, “This must be just like David Lee Roth sucks ass.” And in the only instance of anyone finding Mike and I intimidating in our lifetimes, the man’s significant other said to him, “Honey, shhhh! There are Roth fans ahead!”

Anyway, getting back on track, Roth’s performance with The Pops. Or, as the bald guy who introduces Roth to the stage says, “I think it’s time we make the Pops … Rock! What do you say?”

This guy rules
This guy rules

“Jump” kicks in. Roth comes out. No platinum blonde hair this time. No pink jumpsuit. Classy attire for a classy occasion. Most of the crowd, either waving American flags or wearing clothing featuring American flags, do the only proper thing when “Jump” is playing and jump along to the song. At one point Roth joins the conductor of the orchestra so they can sing a few lines together.

These guys also rule
These guys also rule

Roth is in fine voice. Well, for him. Roth’s strength as a live performer is less his singing and more his spinning jump kicks, of which he does several (one of my favorite parts of his autobiography is when he makes it known that those kicks are not just for show, but are in fact an ancient method of kicking a person off a horse). Roth’s other strength as a live performer is his ability to twirl a mic stand, which he does during the guitar solo. When the War to End All Wars occurs in the next 15 years, Roth will be at the front of the side fighting for the good of humanity twirling away. You know this to be true.

As the song nears its end, members of the orchestra begin leaping out of their chairs. Roth pulls out a few more jump kicks. He looks to the sky, his arms outstretched. A job well done? A fireworks display properly opened for?

For those about to rock (we salute you)
For those who have successfully rocked (we salute you)

Damn right it was. Bowzebowzebop.

Brian Cougar

Peak America: David Lee Roth performs with the Boston Pops on the 4th of July

Normal behavior

Note: Actually did this.

The door flies open. Smoke starts to fill my bedroom. It forms into a miniature cloud. Out of the cloud a witch appears. Basically the Wicked Witch of the West. Run-of-the-mill witch. She’s holding a broom. She’s cackling. She’s saying something I can’t quite understand.

I wake up. It was just a bad dream. I’ve had worse. I find a comic book from under my bed, turn on a lamp and read a bit before falling back to sleep.

A couple of days later, I’m in my bed, reading a book. From downstairs I hear my mom yell, “Dinner!” I turn back to my book. Let me finish this page, then I’ll head down to eat. A timer starts in my head. “10 … 9 …. 8” I toss the book to the ground, get out of bed and run down the stairs.

A few days later, similar situation. I’m sitting in my room, playing a video game and from downstairs I hear my brother yell, “Dinner!” I turn my attention back to the game. I’ll play for another minute, hit pause, then go eat some delicious tacos. “10 … 9 …. 8 … 7” I drop the controller, get up and run down the stairs.

“That was the countdown to the witch returning,” I think to myself. “Yep, that makes sense,” my brain confirms.

This goes on for several years. Not always, but often enough.

One day, when I was either 18 or 19 years old, I’m sitting in my room, reading a book. “Dinner!” someone yells. I keep reading. “10 … 9 …. 8 …. 7 …” I let the countdown continue. “… 3 … 2 …” I actually get nervous for a second, “1 … 0.”

I get up and run downstairs. There’s a rack of ribs on the dining room table.

“You idiot,” I think to myself.

Brian Cougar

Normal behavior

Throwback Thursday: Good at sports

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Throwback Thursday. When we as a people reflect. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said George Santayana, according to my Google search of “those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” So close.

Today, I throwback to some of my past athletic, uh, “achievements.” What lessons can be learned from revisiting them? None! Please like/share.

I no longer play sports. The only athletic competition I take part in currently is when I go for a jog and try as hard as possible to catch up with/pass the random person running ahead of me who has no idea that he/she is involved in a race. When it comes to this, I am a champion.

But that has not always been the case.

Basketball: I loved basketball as a kid. It was by far my favorite sport. One-on-one, two-on-two, “Utah,” 5-3-1, HORSE, Knock-out. Played them all. But once I got to high school, I for some reason completely lost interest in hoops. I didn’t play on my high school team freshman year, and had no plans of playing Junior Varsity sophomore year. Then the JV coach, who also coached JV baseball, told me I had to play to stay in shape for baseball season. Nonsense.

I played, but I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic (or good). While some people push for more playing time, I was more than content to see action in the final 30 seconds before half time or at the end of a game that was out of reach. Do a little bit of running, maybe grab a rebound. But if you get into a game, you of course want to score, at least once.

One game, I thought my moment had come. A kid on our team, Vinny, stole a pass. He tossed me the ball. I had a clear line to the hoop. No one was within 20 feet. I dribbled a few times, made my leap, and completed a picture-perfect layup. TWO POINTS IS TWO POINTS. Or so I thought. A kid on the other team had other ideas. Somehow (or maybe because I wasn’t very fast), he had caught up with me. As I released the ball, he unleashed a picture-perfect block. He hit the ball so hard that it pushed open a previously closed door behind the hoop and exited the gymnasium. ZERO POINTS IS ZERO POINTS.

Soccer: The first organized sport I played was soccer (AYSO 4 life). I was a goalie. I enjoyed playing goalie, especially in high school. I was either standing around doing nothing, singing Def Leppard songs to myself when the ball was on the other side of the field, or it was “Oh God, here they come.”

One day I did not enjoy playing goalie in high school was our playoff game junior year. It was so cold. So very cold. We were losing most of the game — I don’t remember by how much, I don’t remember how the other team scored. All I remember is the cold. And one other thing.

I took my duties as a goalie seriously, as you can tell from the previously mentioned singing of Def Leppard songs to myself during games, and one of the major duties of a goalie is to keep your eye on the ball.

A kid from the other team unleashed a shot in the general direction of the goal, and I was tracking it. I sprinted, my arms outstretched, trying to stop the ball from going into the corner of the net. It did not go into the corner of the net. In fact, it came no where close, sailing wide left. I realized this when my face connected with the goal post and I stumbled backward, falling to the ground. Pour Some Sugar On Me, I am cold and in pain.

Baseball: I think I covered this enough last year.

#tbt

Brian Cougar

Throwback Thursday: Good at sports

And why do we fall, Bruce? Adventures in beer delivery

Currently, my job involves me working on a computer, from home. My commute is usually the bedroom, or living room, or kitchen to my “office.” But during the Summer of Starvation in 2004, I worked at a beer distributor in Scranton, Pa. Now, this wasn’t the type of beer distributor where you go pick up a keg or a 12-pack for a weekend party. This was a giant warehouse that supplied beer for bars, restaurants and pizzerias throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Actual manual labor.

I got the job through my friend Jason*, who worked in the office at this place. Right before interviewing with the boss of the company, I realized that on the portion of the application where it said, “Have you ever been arrested before?” I had checked the “Yes” box. Because I’m a dope, I had read that section as saying, “Check yes if you have never been arrested before.” I scratched out the “Yes” box and checked “No,” hoping he would somehow not notice this or ignore it. He noticed it. So I did the honorable thing and lied.

“Wait, have you been arrested before?”

“No.”

“Why did you originally check the ‘Yes’ box, then?”

“I didn’t. I had left the application out, and one of my roommates did because they thought it’d be funny.”

“Why would someone do that?”

“Uhhhh … some people crazy?”

The job itself generally consisted of me helping load the trucks in the morning, then I’d be paired with one of the drivers to assist with deliveries. Some of the guys were nice, some were weirdos, one or two were jerks; aka, it was a job. One day, the guy in charge of the warehouse asked, “Brian, do you want to work with the guy who never shuts up or the guy who never speaks?” I immediately answered, “Quiet guy.” This was Bruce.

Bruce and I got along A-OK. Although once we were driving along and I was all, “Hey, Bruce, why does this truck have two brakes?” And he said, “Excuse me, what?” And I said, “I noticed there are two breaks. Is one, like, an air brake?” And he said, “Do you mean the clutch?” And I said, “Some people crazy,” then didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

Near the end of the summer, I was again working with Bruce and we were zooming through the shift. Despite the fact that it was particularly hot out and we had several large deliveries, we were like two hours ahead of schedule, and he said he’d take me to a good steakhouse nearby for lunch after we finished at the bar we were approaching. This was when things took a downturn.

We arrived at the parking lot to find a truck from another company was already there. This meant we had to wait until our COMPETITOR was done with his delivery before we could start ours. Professional courtesy. Then while pulling out after he was done, the guy got his truck stuck on a cable wire attached to the bar. There was no freeing him, and his truck was blocking the door to the fridge. So we waited. Then Bruce got sick of waiting, so we found another out-of-the-way entrance and brought our stuff inside. Then the owner of the bar told us there was something wrong with the order and we had brought in way too much stuff. This was when things went off the rails.

Because of our large delivery, we had one of the full-size trucks that day. This meant we had to use a ramp to get things on and off. Going down the ramp with a handtruck stacked with kegs or cases was easy enough. I was in (relatively) good shape during this point, and I had gravity on my side. Pushing a handtruck stacked with kegs or cases up the ramp? I was only in (relatively) good shape during this point, damnit, and gravity was now the enemy.

At first I tried walking the cases up the ramp one by one. But Bruce rightfully pointed out that this would take forever. So I loaded a bunch of stuff on the handtruck. I approached the ramp — which I now must point out was quite narrow — and started my ascent. About halfway up, I stopped. This was a bad idea. It was Wile E. Coyote running off a ledge and then finally looking down. I started to tip to the right. I did not stop tipping to the right. Eight cases of beer went crashing to the pavement.

It was not a soft landing. Immediately beer started shooting everywhere. I guess as a way of helping, the guy from the other company grabbed a couple of the exploding cans and started chugging. Waste not, want not. A can rolled away and stopped directly in front of Bruce. A moment passed. Then I heard a “psssssh” sound and saw one last stream of beer shoot into the air …

We did not go to the steakhouse for lunch.

— Brian Cougar

*I was friends with Jason despite the fact that he once drunkenly tried to put a cigarette out on my eye.

One day after finishing a shift that summer, I was walking toward the exit, my T-shirt covered in sweat. Jason caught up with me, having just finished a day working in an air-conditioned office.

“Brian, I know it’s tough hauling kegs around in this heat, but, mentally, I’m just as exhausted.”

I did not agree.

And why do we fall, Bruce? Adventures in beer delivery

Them Texan Cowboys, Part 1

Screenshot 2015-06-10 at 3.56.20 AM

In college, I’m pretty sure during the Summer of Starvation, I had a dumb idea for a story involving cowboys washing up on a beach. I even shot a video of it with my brothers in Rockaway, although a park ranger quickly chased us away, and most of the footage didn’t record properly. Somehow the video ended up being the weird Iron Maiden-soundtracked thing at the bottom of this post. The other day, while at the laundromat, it popped back into my head. Below is the nonsense that resulted from me revisiting this idea.

“I told you seahorses were a bad idea.”

The Coug and Darius Rivera step out of the ocean and onto the shore. Through his binoculars, Lil’ Kev watches.

“Where do you reckon we are?” Rivera says.

“You know how I feel about you saying reckon.”

“Fine. Where does The Coug believe we are?”

“I reckon I have no idea.”

Lil’ Kev climbs down from his lifeguard chair, puts his whistle in his mouth and blows.

Coug places his right hand on his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun.

“Why is he making that sound? Can he not speak?”

“Want me to punch him in the face?” Rivera says.

“… Yes.”

“On it.”

Rivera walks toward the lifeguard chair.

Lil’ Kev removes the whistle from his mouth.

“Excuse me, sir. That is not appropriate swimwear.”

“You can speak?”

“Of course I can speak!”

“Then why the high-pitched noise?”

“It’s a whistle. It is how the lifeguard maintains order in a world gone mad.”

“The Coug doesn’t like it.”

Rivera rears back and punches Lil’ Kev in the face.

“Owwwwwww! Why did you do that?”

“Why did you blow the whistle?”

“Because of the boots, jeans, T-shirts. A hat! Not appropriate for swimming in our beautiful ocean.”

“We weren’t swimming. We were traveling. Riding.”

“Riding from where?”

“Texan.”

“Texas?”

“No, Texan.”

Rivera helps Lil’ Kev off the ground.

“Sorry” Rivera says. “Coug’s orders.”

“I am a boy who is not calm with you.”

“What?”

Lil’ Kev throws the whistle to the ground.

“I,” Kevin says, “am a boy who is not calm with you.”

“I heard that part.”

“Not calm with you.”

Lil’ Kev punches Rivera in the face. Rivera falls to the ground. Kev climbs to his lifeguard chair. He points his fingers to the sky. He leaps, his elbow connecting with Rivera’s solar plexus as he crashes to the ground.

The Coug approaches.

“I reckon you shouldn’t have done that,” he says.

“Go back to Texan.”

“Excuse me.”

“You are not wearing the proper attire for this beach. Go back to Texan.”

“Do you even know where Texan is? Do you even know what Texan is?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I have a whistle. And because I am a boy who is not calm with you.”

“We were told we would meet you here,” The Coug says. “It was prophesized we would find ‘The Boy Who was Not Calm with Us.’”

“I’m sure it was.”

“Do you want to know why we’re here?”

“Not until you change into proper beach attire.”

**** TO BE CONTINUED?!?!?!?! ****

Them Texan Cowboys, Part 1

Opening Week 2015: Nothing beats Bartolo

Screenshot 2015-04-13 at 2.38.41 AM

(MLB.com)

“No one has more fun playing this game than Bart,” — SNY announcer Ron Darling

Sunday was the end of the first week of the 2015 MLB season, so I figured I’d go through some of my favorite clips from the week. The top, of course, was Bartolo Colon’s RBI single in the Mets’ win vs. the Braves on Sunday.

Before 2011, the main thing that popped into my head if someone mentioned Colon was the time Alex Rodriguez hit three home runs off him in the same game. Since 2011, Colon has become one of my favorite players of all time. Colon, at this point in his career, throws basically nothing but fastballs and still finds success. He rarely walks anyone. And, since signing with the Mets before last season, he gets to hit regularly in the National League. Last year, he had two hits — including a double! — in 62 at-bats. This season, in his second game, he notched his first RBI since 2005. And his helmet fell off. JOYOUS BARTOLO.

My favorite thing about A-Rod’s latest “comeback” is how little fans feel outrage as compared to the media. Now, plenty of fans still dislike A-Rod, but I feel like most of the people who don’t like him haven’t liked him much since, oh, 2004. I’m sure some turned on him when we first learned in 2009 that he did PEDs (during those loosey goosey times), but many had already sided on the pro- or anti-A-Rod side before that even came to light.

He got caught again, he served his suspension and now he’s back. Does A-Rod deserve sympathy? No. But unless the Yanks cut/somehow trade him/he retires, fans of the team are stuck with him through 2017. So hopefully he keeps hitting A-bombs until his hips fall off.

An arrogant person who is bad at his/her job is the worst. An arrogant person who is good at his/her job is fine. Matt Harvey doesn’t have much of a track record, but he’s pretty great. This past week, he made his first regular-season start since Tommy John surgery and, even though he wasn’t at his best, Harvey still K’d nine Nationals over six innings. I hope he wins the NL Cy Young Award this year, then allows eight runs in the NL Wild Card game so my younger brother Kevin and my friend Dan can argue about how good Harvey actually is for the rest of their lives.

Extra-innings game does not equal classic game. On Friday night, I left my apartment after the start of the Yankees/Red Sox series opener and took a bus/walked to a bar to meet up with my older brother Jim. I hung out with my brother for two hours, then took a cab to the bar my girlfriend works at. I waited on line for 10 minutes, then entered the bar, where I hung out for an hour. I took a bus home, then watched the Red Sox and Yankees play for another friggin’ hour.  Before the game ended, I — while not quite sober — tweeted this:

If you’re a Red Sox fan and Boston finishes one game ahead of the Yankees for the American League East title, you might look back at this game as a classic the Sox pulled out thanks to Mookie Betts. But, right now, the No. 1 thing Betts did Saturday morning was provide the decisive run that allowed us to all finally go to bed. And for that, he deserves to have a Hall of Fame career.

A quality first week for the 2015 MLB season. And I didn’t even mention Adrian Beltre adhering to the new MLB rules about pace of play (oh, wait).

Brian Cougar

Opening Week 2015: Nothing beats Bartolo

Well, we made it: The Road to Wrestlemania XXXI

(Photo from WWE.com)

Wrestlemania XXXI is this Sunday. I own a Macho Man Randy Savage ski cap and multiple wrestling shirts, so I was going to watch it no matter what. Generally, the WWE hits a bit of a dead spot around September-December — although Survivor Series this past November ended up being an entertaining show — then things pick up at the Royal Rumble in January as the ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA begins.

This year, WWE has stumbled to the finish line.

Trouble started at the Royal Rumble, when the WWE, for the second straight time, completely mishandled Daniel Bryan’s role in the show. Last year, they responded to the audience, and Wrestlemania XXX ended up being a pretty great event that concluded with Bryan as champion. For Wrestlemania XXXI, they’ve stuck with the original plan, which pits Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns against World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.

One of the issues is Lesnar: He’s terrifying. Over the past year, Lesnar was part of the most shocking finish in WWE history (when he ended the Undertaker’s 21-0 streak at Wrestlemania), and he then completely demolished John Cena, the face of the company for what seems like forever, at Summerslam to become champion. They’ve built Lesnar into a seemingly unstoppable monster, and he both looks and acts the part. And he’s represented by Paul Heyman, arguably the greatest manager of all time.

The main issue is Reigns: He’s not ready. When he was in the Shield, he was great. When he’s spearing people or punching them in the face, he’s pretty great (and such a wonderful head of hair). When he has to say anything more than “Believe that,” he is not so great.

As a result, the most intriguing part of the main event of Wrestlemania isn’t the matchup, it’s, “Is there any way the end of the biggest show of the year isn’t terrible?”

Now, that doesn’t mean the show is going to be terrible. I’ve very much enjoyed the build up for HHH vs. Sting. Bray Wyatt (the Eater of Worlds) has tried very, very hard to hype his match with the Undertaker (who has not been seen since last year’s Wrestlemania), and it will, at the very least, include two amazing entrances.

Rusev (CRUSH) is taking on Cena in a match that has me rooting against USA (well, it’s more a pro-Rusev thing, but the guy does consult with Vladimir Putin and did kick a “soldier” in the face). Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins has a chance to steal the show. And while the Intercontinental title feud has been incredibly dopey, it is ending in a ladder match featuring the most talented guy (Bryan) in the company and six other solid-to-good guys (Dean Ambrose, Bad News Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Stardust and R-Truth). Naked Mideon could show up!*

And, hey, maybe Lesnar will win. Maybe Reigns will prove he is, in fact, ready. Maybe, in this case, it’s the destination, not the journey.

Brian Cougar

* False.

Well, we made it: The Road to Wrestlemania XXXI

A tale of great courage

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“Oh my, that’s a bat.”

I was staring at the ceiling in the front of my apartment in Scranton, Pa., in 2004. It was the end of the Summer of Starvation*, and my brothers were coming the next day to pick me up so I could spend a week home in Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning for my senior year at the University of Scranton.

I ran into my room and shut the door. Panic set in immediately. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What, it’s just a bat.” Well, I had never come face to face with one before, damnit. And I knew two things about bats: They can fly. And they all have rabies. I know that second one isn’t true, but it is.

First I wondered, “How the hell did it get into the apartment?” Then I remembered that while I was sweeping the front porch, I had left the door wide open for some reason. Dope. Why was I even sweeping the front porch? Eleven college dudes were going to be living in the apartment, it would never be clean (and it was NOT). Then I thought, “Maybe I can just lock myself in here for the night, and it’ll be gone by the morning.” But what if it got in somehow? The raptors in Jurassic Park figured out how to open doors! And also, it was, at least while hanging from the ceiling, quite tiny. What if it crawled under the gap at the bottom of the door? Murdered while I sleep.

I opened my laptop and tried to search for info on bat removal. But since we hadn’t set up Internet at the apartment yet, I was relying on the weak wireless signal from the library and nothing was loading. It was like 2 in the morning, and while this was clearly an emergency, I didn’t think anyone else would consider it one, so I figured a phone call would either be ignored or end up with me being mocked.

I had to get rid of it myself.

I looked for things around my room that could help me achieve this. The broom! I had left it on the front porch. Damnit. I had a large collection of CDs, but Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” and Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” were not going to be sacrificed in my attempt to drive this evildoer out. Wait, I had an old pair of shoes! Two chances to hit it. My hope was that a direct shot would cause it to explode into tiny light bubbles like when you die in “Mega Man.” Or at least stun it. Then I would throw my dirty bedroom sheets on top and throw it onto the front lawn.

Before I could put my shoe plan into action, I had to armor myself. That armor consisted of two pairs of socks, my winter boots, a pair of jeans, a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt, fleece sweater and a bubble jacket. Plus a ski cap to cover my head, my glasses to protect my eyes despite the fact that I was wearing contacts, and a Jack Daniels bandana wrapped around my face. Note: It was 85 degrees out. I looked like a lunatic, but had convinced myself that rabies could not penetrate this shield. I wished that I had some type of booze in my room to give me some liquid courage, but sadly I did not. If I’d had the time or the right, I would have said a prayer.**

I opened the door of my room. The bat hadn’t moved. I had a shoe in each hand, and after a few seconds to find what little courage I clearly have, I ran underneath it and launched the first shoe at the ceiling. I completely missed the bat. But I hit the panel it had latched onto. The bat did not like this. It spread its wings, which were approximately 30-feet long, then shrieked and launched itself at me. Hellspawn! I dove to the ground, did a military crawl to my room, and kicked the door shut. After spending 30 seconds on the floor with my hands over my head, I got up, opened my front window, and climbed out onto the front porch.

While I had not got rid of the bat, I had rid myself of the bat. Success!

I took off enough of my “armor” on the front porch so that I could walk around without looking like a crazy person, then headed over to the library, which thankfully was open 24 hours, to calm down. When I returned an hour or so later, I slowly opened the door and peaked inside. I looked up at ceiling. No bat. I looked in my room. No bat. I checked every room in the apartment. No bat. It was never seen again.

But it’s still out there. And it will find me.

Brian Cougar

* When I arrived to Scranton as a freshman, I weighed 250 pounds. Because I do everything ass backwards, I actually lost weight in college. By the end of the Summer of Starvation, due to my job hauling kegs and cases of beer around Northeastern Pennsylvania, plus the fact that I was solely responsible for acquiring/cooking my meals on a limited budget, I had dropped down to about 180.

** A Batman reference was going to happen in this post, and this was it, from “The Dark Knight Returns.”

A tale of great courage