Thursday, October 21, 2004

Javen's blog

I just found out that my "good friend" Javen Bohall now has a blog. By gum, you should visit it by clicking here (a new window will open up). Enjoy!

George Herman Ruth Can Finally Rest His Weary Head

I will say this first: I am not a baseball fan. I can count on one hand the number of games I watch on tv in any given season. I don't really have a die-hard favorite team, and really haven't followed any one team in one season since the 1989 Baltimore Orioles. When there are 162 regular season games and each game is more than three hours long, I just don't have the patience to get into it. I know the game has a lot of nuances and strategy and each inning is like a chess match, and all that. But your average Brewers-Pirates matchup has generally less than Machiavellian intrigue.

I do however, love playoff baseball. The nuances and strategies and chess moves are magnified, and every pitch becomes enormous. I still don't find it quite as compelling as, say, playoff hockey, but a good series can become great within a few pitches.

I also hate the New York Yankees. Perhaps no team has raised my ire more than the Bronx Bombers. They are rightly regarded as the most successful sports franchise of the 20th Century and therefore have all sorts of bragging rights that no other organization -- save for possibly the Montreal Canadiens -- can claim.

This is why Wednesday, October 20, 2004, will go down in history as one of the most satisfying sports-viewing experiences of my entire life. I am not really a Boston Red Sox fan, but I have become a de facto supporter of the team not only because they are the antithesis of the Yankees, but because Yankee fans have taken such relish in breaking their hearts year after year.

I know what it's like to be a heartbroken fan: my sports obsession is the Buffalo Bills, the only team in history to lose four championship games in four consecutive years in any sport. I know what it's like to be so close and to have your heart ripped from your chest, spit on, and thrown into fiery pit of bile. Maybe it's because of this that I have felt a certain, strange kinship with Red Sox fans. (And which made a recent trip to a Bills-Patriots game in Buffalo, where Pats fans were wearing "OJ" and "Norwood" shirts, especially bitter for me.) I know that the Sox are really a mirror image of the Yankees, a high-priced collection of hired guns, but we're talking about the button-down Bombers and the scruffy "idiot" Sox, polar opposites in appearance if nothing else. Besides, this rivaly transcends all minutae of payroll and comparisons between egomaniac players and owners. This is about a city and a group of fans who lord a sense of superiority and entitlement over another group (hell, over all other groups) because of their vicarious affiliation (much of it of a bandwagon-hopping nature) with the Yankee Pinstripes.

Last night, everything changed. It was as if God finally said, "Enough," and decided to give the other side an idea of what it's like to finally be triumphant. And I guarantee Red Sox fans will not take this colossal turn of events for granted as Yankees fans would have.

In case you have been living in a cave, the Yanks were up 3 games to none in the best-of-seven series. Everyone assumed the Sox were dead. A comeback under those circumstances was unprecedented in baseball, and done less than 5 times in all of the major sports combined. But with the swing of David Ortiz's bat in game 4, the most remarkable and unexpected comeback of my life took place. The Sox, whipping boy to the Yankees for so many torturous decades, finally -- FINALLY -- beat that Yankees at the Yankees' own game: an impossible, back-to-the-wall comeback. This would be a historic series if it were a spring training celebrity softball series for charity, but this (and I am not a person prone to baseball hyperbole) is the most titanic comeback in baseball history, and for me, the most satisfying four days of baseball I have ever witnessed.

I watched the game at the Change of Pace Sports Bar on Grant Blvd in Syracuse, home of the best chicken wings in town. I watched it with my boys Willie (an all-time Sox fan) and Toastie (a convert from the Dark Side) and a host of others. It was apparent, though by no means certain, from the first inning that the Sox were in control. Not only did they pile on runs (Ortiz's bomb in the first inning and Damon's two homers, including one where he killed a family of four in the upper deck), but they demoralized the once-proud Yankees. For someone who has had to endure most of the last decade of postseason baseball watching the Yankees toy with their opponents, only to end up pulling some magic out of their batting helmets, I felt truly resplendent. This time it was gonna be different.

This time it was the hated Red Sox not only defeating the Yankees, but humiliating them. They took a series that was over by all accounts (some saying so after game two!) and stuck the dagger deep, deep into the heart of the Beast. The most beautiful sound in the world is that of a Yankee fan's silence. Watching the fans in the stands on tv, I felt pure joy at their anguish. Finally, Yankee fans, you know what it's like. Finally, WE (and by "we" I mean all Yankee-haters around the world) get to watch YOU crying into your dark blue fitted caps.

At the Change of Pace, there was a small pocket of Yankees fans that was vocal for about one inning, and then cleared out by about the 5th inning. Those who were left continued the "Who's Your Daddy?" chants and the "Red Sox Suck" chants, but it was hollow. It smacked of a person who has just been humiliated verbally and can only come back with "F--k you!" A specific coterie of fratboy, metrosexual, loudmouth assholes got visibly frustrated, even intimating the threat of physical violence because we Red Sox supporters were "talking shit." As if Yankees fans ever do anything but talk shit. I must say, it was imminently satisfying to watch these punks looking so lost, so disgusted, like they came to the dance to pick up some girls and got the punch bowl poured on their heads. I thought of every Yankees fan I know that yap-yap-yaps away, and by God I reveled in each one's misery.

Yankee fans need to face up to the fact: The Curse Is Dead. The Bambino can finally go to sleep forever. Roll over Bucky Dent and tell Aaron Boone the news. Yankee fans have used up every verbal barb of superiority possible, and now they have to stop. Period. The Red Sox may still lose the World Series, but The Curse is no more, the spell is broken.

Now it's not only us Buffalo fans who know what it's like to lose four in a row.

It's a glorious day...

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Golden Anniversary That Nearly Killed Me

Have you ever woken up with cotton-mouth? How about a sore throat? How about something hanging out of the back of your throat that feels like one of those sticky octopus things you used to get out of a vending machine that you would throw against the wall and it would climb down? No? Well, all you have to do is drink some beer that doesn't mix with your body or your internal food processing mechanisms and voila, you've got it!

This is a story of my swollen uvula. It's a story that's not for the squeamish, which means it's really not even a story for me. It only lasted but 6 hours or so, but friends, it was a six hours I'd like to forget.

The story starts this past Saturday. Visiting my friends, Javen and Justine (aka T.T., still don't know where that nickname came from), in Schenectady, NY, just a two-hour drive from my home in hardcore urban Syracuse, we had gone to dinner and watched a few innings of the Yankees-Red Sox blowout before heading back for a brief cocktail at the apartment and then out to hopefully more bars. Will was already bitter due to the Red Sox taking an 0-3 dive in the ALCS, and I was just happy to be drunk. We went to a small convenience store, where we looked for the cheapest possible selections. I chose my favorite, Miller High Life, the best cheap beer known to man. But what for our second selection? Which beer would serve a dual function as both an economically-prudent choice but also one that would please the tastebuds as well? The choice was simple: Golden Anniversary, proudly brewed in my hometown of Rochester, New York.

Sure it seemed like a great idea at the time, get some cheap brew to get lit up, then walk to the neighborhood watering holes and slow 'er down with the fancy stuff. As Javen and I embarked on a 6-hour political discussion, we began knocking back brew after brew. I started with the High Life, as is my custom. Even though it is summer no more, the best summer brew this side of Milwaukee was treating me just fine. Curiously, someone handed me a golden can of the Golden Anniversary, and it was just fine too. When you're as far in the bag as I was, you can't tell the difference. Interestingly, I felt no ill-effects while conscious. As 4:30 AM rolled around, Javen and I finally agreed to disagree about Bush and Kerry, and decided to fall asleep. I felt great, a little dizzy, but great.

After what I can only assume is the worst night of sleep in my entire life (the air mattress I slept on collapsed under my burly weight), I awoke around 8 AM and felt the curious sensation of having a deflated balloon attached to the roof of my mouth. I swallowed once and felt a large flap of something undulating in my throat. My first inclination was to assume William and Javen had played a mischievous prank on me by placing something in my mouth as I slept, and I briefly looked forward to the sure-to-follow digital photo documenting the hilarity at my expense. But when I realized everyone else was still comatose, I flipped the hell out.

I ran to the bathroom to check the inside of my mouth. It was too dark to see in the bathroom, so I had to turn the light on, but the marquee-style lighting was too bright for my sensitive eyes, so I had to pull of an idiotic-looking maneuver by which I tilted my head back, opened my mouth in the say-ahhh position, shielded my eyes like a visor and stared into the horrifying abyss that was my mouth. I saw two tongues: my actual tongue and the second one where my uvula (the little punching bag in the back of the throat) used to reside. But instead of the cute little cartoonish teardrop-shaped piece of skin or whatever the hell it is, I saw an elongated, misshapen blob that was resting on the back of my tongue. And if you think that's gross, imagine how I felt looking at the goddamn thing. I nearly passed out. In fact, I lied down on the bathroom floor momentarily to get my blood back into my head, and then wondered if blood in my head was good for my amorphous uvula. I actually considered taking steps to get blood out of my head. Not a good idea in hindsight, but this is how my affliction affected my thought-process.

So I did what anyone with such a medical condition would do: I went back to sleep in the hope that my condition would be gone when I woke up, or better yet that it was all a horrible dream. So I fell asleep for another 15 minutes, trying to dream my growth away. No dice. It felt like peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth, except in this case the peanut butter was my own flesh. Now, this didn't hurt, not at all. It was simply uncomfortable, and since I have apprehensions anyway about swallowing and my dubious gag reflex (no jokes, fellows!), it became incredibly irritating and somewhat frightening.

Most people might call a doctor for something like this. Since I hate doctors and hospitals, I did the next best thing and got on WebMD. I had remembered what a magnificient resource this had been when I had a bit of a hemorrhoid problem back in March of '03, and I thought, if anyone could help me, it would be WebMD. Double dang-it! The only thing it suggested to me was to get my tonsils out. I had been planning on doing that anyway, but not now, dammit!

Who is better than a doctor to cure this problem? Who? Think, damn you, think! Of course! My little brother, Mike, aka "Beach Justice." No, he is not a doctor, but he did graduate from SUNY Fredonia in 2002 or so and I remembered he had had a similar condition at one time. So I called him on my cellular wireless telephone. It was about 9AM and Mike is accustomed to waking up at ohhh about noon, so I wasn't expecting him to answer. The phone rang 4 or 5 times before I heard the glorious click and timbre of my brother's surprisingly alert voice answering his phone. I asked him to help me. "Please, brother, please!" He replied, "Calm down, my friend, let me walk you through it." In his most scholarly and medicinal voice, Mike gave me the clinical explanation. I've had a bad allergic reaction to some beer. Something about the wheat or the way they process it. Have I had this beer before? No. Did you drink at all last night? Yes, yes! Well there's your answer. Take some allergy medication and give it till day's end. Oh, thank you brother, thank you! TT, the absoulute peach that she is, drove to the store and got me some Benadryl. Though they didn't exactly perform open-heart surgery on me, Mike and TT saved my life.

I shouldn't have driven back to Syracuse after the Benadryl though. Future reference.