Every once in a while - and luckily for me it really is only once in a while - the girlfriend will peel me off the couch and force me to go out with some other couples to a dinner party, or housewarming party, or an ugly sweater party, or whatever other kind of party couples need to have once they reach adulthood and reluctantly sign the social contract that states you can no longer enjoy time with your significant other while drinking out of a red plastic cup in dingy basements. And during those parties, more often than not I'm handed a very fancy glass as soon as I walk in the door and asked whether I prefer red or white wine. My response is always the same: I'll smile, ask for red, and then I do my boyfriendly duties as I participate in various conversations about new drapes and upcoming vacations and how the ratio of number of pillows on the bed to number of pillows actually used while sleeping now clocks in at an impressive 10:1. I will perform all of these absurd parlor tricks happily, as at the end of the day my girlfriend asks for very little while putting up with a whole (whole, whole, whole) lot, so it's the very least I can do. But after the party is over, after we say our goodbyes and head home for the night, I always end up asking the exact same question.
Would it kill them to have some beer? How come they never have beer at these things?
I'm willing to admit it here: I don't like wine. I don't like anything about it. It's confusing. It makes me incredibly tired. I don't get the whole "wine culture." People make this huge production out of drinking it, swirling it and holding it up to the light and chewing it and sniffing it as if all that somehow makes it more sophisticated. It's always served in these weird looking glasses that I never quite know how to hold. But mainly, it just doesn't taste good. I flat out don't enjoy the taste of it. I've had cheap wine and I've had embarrassingly expensive wine...all gross. I should like wine - it's booze, it gets you hydrated, and I even hear that it's good for you - but I don't, and there isn't all that much I can do about it. But since somewhere along the line somebody decided that drinking wine is what adults do, sometimes I just have to grin and bear it.
And as I thought more and more about my dislike of wine, I came to realize that, when it comes down to my life as a whole, there is a pretty large list of things that I should like, that I want to like, that everybody else likes, but I just don't. You can call me grumpy, or cynical, or a jerk if you want to - you won't be the first or the last to do so - but at the end of the day I don't like to do a lot of the things that other people like to do. I guess when it all boils down, you like what you like and you dislike what you dislike, and sometimes all the attempts in the world to change it are going to fall flat. And so, ultimately, all you can do is give up on it and live your life the way you want to.
And whether I want to admit it or not, there are several aspects of the New England Patriots that I should like, maybe even pretend to like, but actually don't. I may have even expressed my enjoyment of these very elements in past articles, knowing full well that it was time to toe the company line. Well not anymore. Time to come clean. It's the very tail end dead time in the NFL, and all I have had to think about over the past few weeks is random, stupid stuff like this. So here is a list of apparently awesome stuff that I couldn't care less about, along with its New England Patriots equivalent.
Farmer's Markets. I've touched on this before, but it's worth bringing up again now; the farmer's market scene just doesn't do it for me. And it isn't so much the event itself; I'm all for supporting local businesses and giving directly back to the source without any corporate red tape and all that. It's more the people that go to farmer's markets that give me the redass more than anything else. I mean do you really need to stand there staring at a head of lettuce like it's the most impressive thing you've ever seen? Is the discovery of a local pasta maker really that incredible? Do homemade pickles really blow your mind? And does food bought at a farmer's market really taste that much better than the stuff you buy at Shaw's? And if it does, is a 20 minute conversation about how amazing farmer's markets are really necessary? Did you really need to inform me that you bought the burger I'm eating at the Joe's Organic Meats tent this morning, and how you can really taste the difference? It's grocery shopping, people; go to the market, get what you need to get, contribute to the local economy, get on with your day, and shut the hell up about it.
New England Patriots equivalent: The Boston Media. There was once a time, when I first started following the Patriots seriously in the early 90s, where I would be luckily to find a few short paragraphs about the Pats on the back page of a Boston-based newspaper to keep me up-to-date on team news. The only highlights I would get would come from Chris Berman and Tom Jackson on NFL Primetime. I guess the philosophy was that the Patriots were godawful, this was Red Sox country anyway, so there was really no reason to pay any attention to that afterthought out in Foxboro. I hated it at the time and wanted nothing more than to hear more Pats talk, but nowadays I think I would rather have it revert to the old days than have to put up with the schlock, nonsense, and drivel that various "journalists" seem to be vomiting out on an almost daily basis. Maybe it's because I don't really have my ear to the ground on many other sports markets, but I can't imagine there are too many other cities who treat their most successful franchise the way the Boston media treats the Patriots. While the exceptions are notable and extremely good at their job (you keep doing you, Mike Reiss), the bulk of the Boston media are crotchety, pessimistic, old antiques that don't like Bill Belichick or the way he runs his organization, and because of that they never hesitate to take any move the Patriots make and spin it as a negative. Pats passed up on a big name to re-sign their own players instead and take care of the guys who have been working hard all year? Just the cheap Patriots tightening the wallet. Pats trade back in the draft to maximize the value of their picks and set themselves up for the following year? Belichick and his stubborn ways simply refusing to adapt and take a risk. Patriots win 42-10? Yeah, but Brady missed a few open receivers and the running game faltered at times; this could be the beginning of the end. What I once dreamed of as a kid - steady, consistent coverage of my favorite team - has now become an almost constant bash session by the very folks whose job it is to understand the overall mentality of the city. It just sucks. So shut the hell up about it.
Marathoning TV shows. I should absolutely love doing this, as it's everything I stand for: being cheap, sitting in front of the TV, complete laziness, mindless entertainment...yes please. But there is just zero appeal to me watching an entire series in one sitting. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to prolong my enjoyment. Maybe it's because I don't watch all that much non-NFL TV. Maybe it's because I already have about 645 reasons to be disgusted with myself as it is and I don't need to add "spends entire weekends in one spot in front of the TV covered in cheese dust" to the ever growing list of my own little personal failures. I don't know. But if I commit to watching a TV show, it's going to be several months before I watch it all. This drives people crazy, as they want to talk about shows with me, but I'll rarely, if ever, watch more than one episode in one sitting and will take my sweet time getting to the end.
New England Patriots equivalent: Primetime games. Don't get me wrong here - I greatly enjoy it when the Pats play in primetime. After all, it's national exposure, a more electric environment, larger implications, and the chance to share my Patriots fandom with the rest of the country. However, as long as I'm being honest, I may as well admit that I'm really not as big of a fan of Patriots primetime games as I should be. If I had my way, I would have every game start at 1 PM and that would be the end of that. When New England plays on Sunday or Monday (or Thursday now - thanks commish!) night, what ends up happening is I'm a jittery bundle of nerves all day long and unable to fully concentrate on anything else. More often than not, it's one of the bigger games on the schedule where a win would be big and a loss would be bigger, and so I have to spend the whole day stressed out over it. And then, when the game is finally over, I'm either so pumped up from the win or so despondent over the loss that I don't get a wink of sleep that night. When the Panthers beat the Patriots on that bogus penalty, I lay awake all damn night just staring at the ceiling and cursing to myself. When they came back to beat the Broncos in OT, I was up all night watching highlights and enjoying the smug sense of self-satisfaction that came with a win like that. As a result, I'm even more useless the next day than usual, which is the equivalent of getting off your unicycle to see if your pogo stick will get you there faster. When it's a 1PM game, I can wake up, get breakfast, run a few errands, and sit down for the game. Then it's over by 4 or so, which means I can either enjoy the win and get on with my day or begin the grieving process so I can at least pretend to be productive at work the next morning.
Celebrity chefs. Honestly, who cares? Do I really need my chef to be famous or serve famous people? Will I always be able to tell which burger the celebrity chef made in a blind taste test? Question for you, Gordon Ramsay: can you cook a mean steak? Yes? Then how about you get back into that executive kitchen and get to it? I'm getting hungry. I've been to plenty of restaurants manned by non-celebrity chefs and had some fantastic meals. Plus, more often than not, people will fall all over themselves to attend a restaurant owned or endorsed by a celebrity chef without tasting a single crumb of that chef's work. Sheep mentality at its finest. Oh, this guy has a cooking show? He must be the best! Where can I go to overpay for a chicken patty with his name on it?
New England Patriots equivalent: Celebrities in Pats gear. I have been to more than my share of sporting events. Baseball games. Hockey games. Basketball games. And of course, football games. And at almost every single one, at some point during the contest the camera will pan to some famous person there to watch the game and support his/her team. The level of celebrity usually varies, but more often than not there is at least someone of note at most sporting events. You know what the exception seems to be? Pats games. I rarely, if ever, see a celeb up on the jumbotron at Gillette (and that's right where the McDonald's is, so you know I'm looking that way a lot). Whether they just don't go to Patriots games or there aren't all that many famous people who are also Pats fans is a mystery, but that's not really what roasts my pork. What drives me nuts are all of the celebrities who wear Patriots jerseys only when it's convenient for them to do so. The way I see it, if you aren't a fan of my team, get your surgically altered self out of that jersey. You don't care about this team. You have never even been to the stadium. Just because Jack Nicholson has the Lakers and Will Smith has the Eagles, you don't suddenly get to claim New England. So get out of here with all of that. You know who you are.
Dessert. OK, this is a total lie. I love dessert. I mean, who doesn't? It's dessert, for crying out loud! However, I have gone on the record several times in various different venues saying that "dessert isn't really my thing" and "I don't really have a sweet tooth" in some pathetic attempt to impress whoever I'm with or come across as more manly. Where I got it in my head that real men don't eat dessert is beyond me, but let's be honest: can you picture John Wayne eating an ice cream sundae? Did Lee Marvin ever lick the frosting off of a cupcake before diving in? Did the Marlboro Man order a slice of lemon merengue pie after he ate a steak and before he lit one up? The answer is no. The bottom line is that dessert is one of those things I can't get enough of but pretend to dislike in public so I can feel better about how totally and utterly unmanly I am.
New England Patriots equivalent: Brushing off losses. If people actually knew just how much a Patriots loss upset me, they'd have me committed. The Pats lose a game, and I'm grumpy and irritable for almost the entire next week. I get sick to my stomach when the final whistle blows, I walk around my apartment like I just found out they had to put my dog to sleep, and the slightest little thing sets me off. It's absurd. Luckily for me, I'm aware of how unbelievably pathetic it is, and so I find a way to put on a false front about how it isn't that big a deal, it's just a game, we'll get ‘em next week, and all that good stuff. I don't believe a word of it, but I still say it so as to allow myself another week as a member of non-institutionalized society. But just know that, even though I may come across as rational and realistic in my "Coping With Loss" articles, inside I'm a mewling, blubbering mess. The exception, of course, was this last season, where I got a brief and wonderful glimpse of the joyous freedom that accompanies being able to just enjoy the game for what it is without worrying about any long-term consequences, but I have a feeling that that was a one-off, and it's right back into the loony bin for me come September. I realize that by admitting this now, I've pretty much screwed myself in regards to offering any legit analysis following a loss, but maybe that will just give me more time to eat more dessert in private - and probably in the basement, with all the lights off, while wearing clown suit.
Brunch. The amount of crap I get when I express my dislike of brunch is rivaled only by the amount of crap I get when I admit that I didn't think Breaking Bad was the greatest anything that ever anythinged anywhere at anytime for anyone. The people that enjoy the brunch scene are just so freaking in love with it that, like Breaking Bad, they simply can't comprehend how a person can exist that doesn't love to spend half of his weekend brunching (I just wrote the word "brunching" and now I really, really hate myself). Well I don't like brunch, and that's the way it is. First of all, brunch isn't even a thing; you're either eating breakfast or you're eating lunch, and that's it. Did you order a burger? Lunch. Having the eggs? Breakfast. Ordering eggs at 3 PM? Breakfast for lunch. It's not that hard. If I make myself a bacon egg and cheese at 7 PM and wash it down with a Rolling Rock, am I suddenly eating Dunch? Of course not, so let's call a spade a spade here. Just because I had the option of ordering Eggs Benedict alongside a plate of spaghetti doesn't mean you can magically create a new meal; the restaurant just serves breakfast and lunch at the same time. Nothing to see here. And while I like to hydrate as much as the next guy, excuse me if I'm not falling all over myself to pay $15 for a few pancakes and bottomless junior prom quality sparkling wine mixed in with canned orange juice concentrate and watery beer. And since I think Bloody Marys are gross, all I'm really doing is overpaying for cheap eggs and bad booze. No thanks. I know, I know, I'm going to the wrong brunch places and I clearly don't know how it's done and some of the best meals you've ever had are huge $5 breakfast burritos and bottomless top shelf margaritas and boozy brunches are the best and blah blah blah. Tell you what; you go ahead and have your chourizo-infused free range basil topped omelette with salmon salsa and spicy hollandaise with your all-you-can-drink bellinis, and I'll go to the diner, order the blue plate special, and we'll meet up for the game afterwards. Sound good?
New England Patriots equivalent: Other Patriots fans. I know, and I'm sorry. But let's be honest for a minute: as a fan base, we're just awful. We're never satisfied. Nothing is ever good enough. It's Super Bowl or failure year in and year out. We refuse to entertain arguments that paint Brady and Belichick as anything other than the greatest QB of all time and the greatest coach of all time, and will gladly turn a blind eye to all the bad games Tommy B has played and all the poor decisions Bill Belichick has made (because, you know, they are both human). We have been so spoiled for so long that we are now the NFL equivalent of the whiny, obnoxious rich kid on the block who has always gotten everything he has ever wanted and has become completely insufferable as a result. Whenever I prepare to engage another non-Pats fan in a debate, I first have to prove my merit and illustrate that I'm not some numbskull who suddenly saw a winning team and decided to jump on the bandwagon without any real knowledge or background, which always puts me at a disadvantage. And for every logical, rational, normal Pats fan who remembers a time when the December win column was in the single digits and appreciates the team for what it is, there are plenty of self-entitled idiots. But you know what? I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. The run of success I've gotten to enjoy over the past decade plus is unlike anything I have ever experienced or will ever experience, and when your team is always in contention, you're going to have your share of jerk fans. That's why I'm so grateful to have found this community here at Pats Pulpit. For the most part, we've all created a space where we can have conversations, engage in debate, and talk football without all of the nonsense that comes with the territory when you're a Patriots fan. Before I found the Pulpit, I would waste hours on the ESPN message boards trying to calmly tell people who were hell-bent on proving that 2+2=9 that that was not in fact the case. Now, however, I honestly can't remember the last time I commented on anything other than an SB Nation site. So thanks for that, everyone. We may be pretty insufferable as a whole, we have a pretty good thing going here, and I'm certainly grateful to be a part of it.
Now let's hurry up and get back to football.