The Patriots Fan

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Today is Super Bowl LI. Patriots vs. Falcons. LADY GAGA! What follows is a detailed position-by-position breakdown of both teams, a look at potential X-factors, plus an oral history of Deflategate. Wait, no it isn’t.

Back in 2012, I decided to move to Boston after six years living in Hoboken, N.J. Well, less decided to move there and more ended up moving there since I didn’t find myself a new place in the Hoboken/NYC area despite the fact that my roommate at the time had given me a year’s notice that he was planning to shack up with his now-wife. (I think that was around the time I watched the entirety of the TV show “Lost” — 121 episodes! — in a 3-month span on Netflix, which, looking back, might not have been a great period of time for me mental-health wise.)

Anyway, it was 2012 and I was living in the Allston area of Boston with my older brother Jim. Just a few blocks from my apartment was the Sil (aka the Silhouette Lounge), a bar I would occasionally often frequent. One Sunday, I headed over after work to watch the second half of the Patriots game. I was by myself, so I took a seat, ordered a PBR tall-boy and settled in for an enjoyable late-afternoon of NFL football.

Sitting next to me was a 30-something dude in a Tom Brady jersey. Now, I am generally not one to strike up conversation with strangers, but during a sporting event at a bar, conversations with strangers are hard to avoid. At some point late in the third quarter, Brady threw for a TD, and the guy said something like, “Sick fucking pass!” then looked over at me; so I was obliged to kind of nod and halfheartedly agree: “Yep, fucking sick pass, man. NEVER COUNT OUT TOUCHDOWN TOM.” He, also sitting by himself, decided we were now friends and were going to have a nice chat.

So he tells me why Brady’s god and why Gronk’s the man and I tell him I’m from New York so he bitches about the Giants and how Eli’s not elite despite the fact that I inform him I’m a dreaded Cowboys/Yankees fan. I also realize he is super high on life. Then he shuts up for a bit before saying, “I’m a hardcore fan. Once it’s half-time, I’m heading home so I can fully lock in on the end of the game.”

“What?” I replied.

“Can’t have any distractions for the second half,” he said.

I paused, to make sure I heard him correctly. Looked up at the TV, to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Then said:

“There is legit 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter.”

He stared at me for a few seconds, collected his things, exited the bar, and I never saw him again during my four years in Boston.

Brian Cougar

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The Patriots Fan

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

Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

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

Love your enemy: a Yanks fan on the greatness of Pedro

I am a Yankees (and Cowboys — love me!) fan, and therefore probably shouldn’t like Pedro Martinez as much as I do. The newly elected Hall of Famer spent the majority of his career with the Red Sox, then had a memorable run with the Mets and finished up his big league tenure pitching for the Phillies against the Yanks in the 2009 World Series. But Pedro, due to his electrifying talent and charisma, was part of some of my all-time favorite baseball moments, even when they involved him beating the Yankees or beating senior citizens who worked for the club.

1: Pedro outduels Clemens, May 28, 2000

Not only am I a Yankees/Cowboys fan, I am — still — a fan of Roger Clemens. I feel like most Yankees/Red Sox/Blue Jays fans don’t really care for him anymore (although I for some reason think Astros/Sugar Land Skeeters fans still dig him), but I look back fondly on The Rocket’s career, and I think my appreciation of him started with this game.

I remember, after getting home from the beach, watching the entire thing in the basement of my old house in Brooklyn. Unlike the Pedro-Clemens matchup in the 1999 American League Championship Series, when Clemens stunk and the Sox ended up winning in a rout, this time, they matched each other pitch for pitch until the ninth inning. It was also in old Yankee Stadium, so the atmosphere was electric and the seats behind home plate were filled the entire game. Then, in the top of the ninth, friggin’ Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer, and the Sox went on to win, 2-0. Nixon is up there with Curt Schilling, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis as my all-time least-favorite Sox players based solely on this home run.

2: Pedro chucks Zimmer, 2003 ALCS, Game 3

Clemens vs. Pedro again! Everyone remember this one. I watched this game with a few friends at Jeremy’s, a bar by the South Street Seaport known for its giant styrofoam beers and the bras that adorn the walls/ceiling. I recently rewatched the extended clip from this incident, and I had completely forgotten how messed up the pitch Pedro threw to Karim Garcia in the fourth inning that got everyone heated was. He unleashes a fastball right behind Garcia’s head, leading Garcia to, understandably, make this face:

Video_Benches_clear_at_Fenway_MLB.com_-_2015-01-07_02.33.11

Then, in the bottom of the fourth, Clemens threw a pitch that was high and inside but nowhere near Manny Ramirez’s head, and things got real crazy:

I was standing at the bar waiting for a beer when Pedro threw Don Zimmer to the ground, and a random woman grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and yelled, “What are we gonna do?!” I had no answer.

3: 2003 ALCS, Game 7

Once more, Clemens vs. Pedro! Clearly they should have gone into the Hall of Fame together. I was a junior in college (University of Scranton 4 life), and had a night class scheduled for when this game occurred. My newswriting teacher had received an advanced copy of the movie “Shattered Glass” (Hayden Christensen in his greatest role) to show us, and she said if we missed class, it counted as two absences, which would have screwed with my grade.

I actually showed up to class early, but immediately decided my duties as a Yankees fan were more important than my duties as a Communications Major, so I left. Right move! As after a terrifying 7 1/2 innings, Grady Little left Pedro in too long, the Yanks rallied, and Aaron Boone eventually did that thing he’s famous for. I ended up emailing my teacher and told her I skipped class because I felt I couldn’t miss the game. She basically called me an idiot, but understood. I think I ended up with a B- in the class.

4: Summer of Pedro, Shea Stadium 2005

No 2004 games will be on this list, how dare you. After graduating college in ’05, I returned home to Brooklyn and spent the summer putting on a solid 25-30 pounds thanks to too many Bud Heavies and Bubba Burgers. I also went to several Mets games with my younger brother Kevin, and we tried to go whenever Pedro was pitching at Shea. I know the Mets have had several impressive pitchers since 2005 (Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon), but that first summer Pedro pitched for the Mets was the most fun I ever had watching games at glorious, gone-but-not-forgotten Shea Stadium. Two specific moments stand out:

1) In the middle of an inning that season, the sprinklers went off on the field. Most pitchers facing that situation would either run away or pout (I feel like Mike Mussina would’ve pouted), but Pedro stuck his head right in front of a sprinkler to cool off, then walked around with a goofy smile on his face.

2) On June 7 vs. the Astros, Pedro had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning. This was during the Mets’ infamous run of never having thrown a no-hitter, and a buzz was starting to build. In the break between the bottom of the sixth and the top of the seventh, a few dudes — Mets fans — sitting down the aisle from Kevin and I started discussing the fact that Pedro was throwing a no-no. Not only were they breaking the rule of “Don’t talk about a no-hitter while it’s happening” (settle down all you “Duhh, you can’t actually jinx a no-hitter by talking about it” people), they were predicting which player on the Astros would end up getting the hit! I specifically remember them guessing it would be Brad Ausmus, Houston’s light-hitting catcher. Kevin, not surprisingly, was becoming enraged, but he, surprisingly if you know him, did not start screaming at them. With one out in the seventh, Chris Burke hit a home run. Pedro ended up throwing a complete game, striking out Burke to end it. Now that I think about it, Kev might have started screaming at them after the home run.

I currently live in Boston, and over the past few months I’ve occasionally had people commenting on my Yankees gear while I’m out and about. The conversations have tended to be them going, “I hate the Yankees, but Derek Jeter is all class.” With me responding, “I don’t care what you think about Jeter, as long as you love and respect Bernie Williams.” That second part might not be true.

As fans, it’s natural to hate the players on rival teams, but in the case of guys like Pedro Martinez, it’s OK to love them a bit, too.

— Brian Cougar

Love your enemy: a Yanks fan on the greatness of Pedro

A.J. Burnett has more wins than the Red Sox

The fact that we’re six games and two Burnett starts into the season and the title for this blog entry is true is amazing. Was that available as a prop bet in Vegas? Do I know what a prop bet really is? Loyal readers will have to help me out on that question (I will NOT google it).

But it is true, and while Burnett hasn’t been amazing, he has been closer to “Good A.J.” than “Bad A.J.,” which is (sadly) all most Yankee fans ask from him. Should a person being paid $82.5 million over five years be expected to simply keep his team in games? Nope, but as Kurt Vonnegut said, “so it goes.” (Vonnegut hoped that phrase would be used to justify mediocre performances from subpar pitchers, right?)

Back to the Red Sox … this first Yankees/Boston series, which gets overhyped as it is, will now be hyped through the roof due to the fact that the Sawx are going into it (home opener no less) winless. SEASON ON THE BRINK! Are the Red Sox buckling under the pressure of being the team to beat heading into this season? (And were the Yankees smart by pretending to be $200 million underdogs?) Will Boston sweep and immediately return to being most people’s pick to win the AL East? Will the Yankees sweep and cause Red Sox Nation to despair about a season already lost in April? However it ends up, the Red Sox will be happy to know they get to face the Rays starting Monday, and that team is in much worse shape than they are right now (seriously, that offense is little league).

— Brian Cougar

A.J. Burnett has more wins than the Red Sox