Entries by: Roger Pretzel

Week 4: Steve Smith is Gone and Matango AKA Attack of the Mushroom People

Written by :
Published on : October 6, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum, I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the wolves have ceased howling, and the mummies have been wrapped.

 

Week 4: Steve Smith Sr. Knocks Over David Amerson For Lightning Quick TD

 

This was one of the week’s big ones, but I had to chime in too since Sr has always been one of my favorite receivers and I’m gonna miss him when his inevitable retirement comes. Small, but sturdy and with alacrity to spare, Smith, shows that he’s 37-years-ageless with this 50-plus yard catch for TD off the play action pass.

 

Flacco throws a bullet here that Smith has to extend on, but the coverage ain’t there so once old 89 gets possession, he wastes no time giving Oakland CB David Amerson the unkindest cut by shoving him down to the turf with his shoulder as the poor guy struggles to make a tackle. You can almost hear that authoritative “sit down” that we all imagine in our heads.

 

Hard to blame Safety Reggie Nelson for the total half-hearted whiff on the tackle attempt because Dad’s off to races on a play that cut more than half the field, lasted mere seconds, and resulted in a score.

 

That is the quickness right there.

 

Week 4: Matango AKA Attack of the Mushroom People

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Director: Ishiro Honda
Released: 1963

 

Earlier this season we talked about the great George A. Romero and how his legacy will always revolve around the flesh-eating undead zombie trope he pioneered. Ishiro Honda’s career is marked in much the same way with being the grandfather of Japan’s most important (my opinion) export: Godzilla. While the original Gojira (1954) is a lot darker and more violent than many of us remember, Honda basically spent the rest of his prolific career at the Toho studios churning out a long line of less serious, but no less destructive or fun Kaiju movies, including some of the genre’s greatest classics like Mothra (1961), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), and Destroy All Monsters (1968).

 

But amongst all the slumbering reptilians asleep under the ocean, aliens, and his very own bizarre rendition of Frankenstein’s monster, one of Honda’s strangest cinematic fever dreams would sometimes be retitled as Attack of the Mushroom People.

 

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When a gang of pampered city-slickers become stuck on an eerie rock that even birds seem to avoid, this “Gilligan’s Island” from hell is a very slow build where the danger of sexual assault against the women castaways mounts uncomfortably and the diminishing food supply is a cold hard truth. Thankfully (for the viewer!) this island is covered in all manner of wildly proliferating fungi, and when one member of the party succumbs to the hunger in his belly it’s inevitable that things start to take a turn for the monstrous.

 

This is going to be one of the best looking pictures we screen in the dungeon this season, with lots of great production design that includes an entire derelict wrecked ship and of course the many vividly colored examples of the island’s eerie fungal flora. And while as previously mentioned, this is a very slow build, there is indeed an actual payoff of “Mushroom People” in a way that is satisfying to horror fans that want a little bit more than pure psychology to dictate their frights. The strong sense of craftsmanship, partially thanks to this actually having been made at a major studio also carries over to the photography and most importantly to the genuinely creepy sound design with unnatural and jarring sonic stunts that complement the nightmare island presented onscreen.

 

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Take a nibble on these toadstools with the trailer here:
 

 

 

Or get fully weird with the entire picture for free!
 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 3 (Special Edition Mamma Pretzel Picks): Derrick Johnson Pick Six and Awakening of the Beast

Written by :
Published on : September 29, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the prisoners manacled, and the graves have been robbed.

 

Week 3 Special – Mamma Pretzel’s Choice: Derrick Johnson Picks Off Fitzpatrick, Rumbles His Way 50-plus Yards For The TD

 

 

Mamma Pretzel is a football fan, and I’m lucky enough that each year her and I head off to Ford Field to see a Lions game in October. As I was chatting about the NFL with her while going over the highlights Monday so I thought I’d hand over the reigns and give her a shot at picking this week’s highlight.

 

I was personally pretty giddy over LeGarrette Blount’s long run for TD on Thursday night, aided by a great Julian Edelman block and capped off with a goofy photo-op celebration with the “minutemen,” but that was rejected out of hand by Moms: “I’m not going to pick anything involving the damn Patriots.” I submit without comment. “Well, I guess it’s gotta be that one…,” she admitted after reviewing Derrick Johnson’s pick of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who then went on to follow his blocks cleverly, end the thing with a nice stiff-arm, and stumble/spin into the end zone. It turned out to be a compromise seeing as how Mamma Pretzel is a bit of a Jets fan and a real-deal believer in Fitzpatrick. Again, I submit without comment.

 

Kansas City had their way defensively with the Jets at Arrowhead on Sunday. Fitz threw a whopping six interceptions, with this one being the final straw late in the fourth. While it was a lost cause for sure at that point, I love the focus by Johnson, as well as the dedication of Jets WR Quincy Enunwa rushing back only to take the rough stiff–arm to the mask that sealed the play. The Chiefs continue to have one of those maddening hot/cold defenses. At their best they are easily in the league’s top three, but that’s not always the team we see on Sunday. Thanks Mom! See you in October.

 

Week 3: Awakening of the Beast

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Director: Jose Mojica Marins
Released: 1970

 

Brazilian director and horror personality Jose Mojica Marins, better known by his top-hatted and long-taloned persona “Coffin Joe” is still working today, but he’s best known in the States for a duo of shockers made in the 1960’s that are lurid, stylish, and sport some great titles: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964), and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967). The flicks are good fright fare with a combination of dreadful tone in the menacing character of Joe himself, and the general theme of the madman subjecting beautiful scantily clad women to torture by all manner of creepy-crawlies. Spider on midriff? Check. Snake around thigh? Check. Marins also has a legitimately threatening presence as an actor, imbuing these two films with a sense that violence can happen to anyone at any minute.

 

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Awakening of the Beast is sometimes considered the third installment in a trilogy along with the aforementioned films, but given Marins’ scattered and varied output, most of which involves Coffin Joe, I don’t find the assessment to be appropriate. More Roger Corman exploitation cheapie than spook show, Marins uses the hoary old MacGuffin of psychedelic drug use as an excuse to stage skits involving all manner of deviant sexual behavior (S & M, bestiality, and incest all get at least passing attention), and like many other good examples of the “freak out” genre this one switches over from black and white to candy color for a phantasmagoric orgy of sex and violence once the LSD properly kicks in.

 

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Laughably sensationalist treatment of drug culture and cheap thrills and chills aside, Marins using his own Coffin Joe character as a kind of mock-documentary host/educator instead of boogeyman bad-guy is the most fun to watch, and the picture’s crowning achievement.

 

This extremely NSFW opening scene gives you a taste of what Joe/Jose is serving up in Awakening of the Beast:

 

 

This one is pretty hard to get a hold of today, with no easy streaming options I could find, but it looks like Amazon sells DVD copies for pretty cheap. Both At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse are available for free in their entirety on Youtube.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 2: Kelvin Benjamin TD and Knightriders

Written by :
Published on : September 22, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the wine’s been poured, and the wolves have been fed.

 

Week 2: Cam Finds Kelvin Benjamin For Short, Bruising Touchdown

 

While last week The Haunted Dungeon looked at a determined play from young up-and-comer Derek Carr, this week we focus on toughness. The theme is no coincidence since many of us are now looking to patch up the injury-related holes in our leaky fantasy rowboats after a week two that was particularly hard on some dependable names. I managed to snag returning behemoth Kelvin Benjamin for a song in my league’s auction draft and he’s been paying dividends. This is a guy built a bit like linebacker, but happens to be a gifted receiver.

 

It’s 2nd and 9 so Cam’s got some wiggle room: why not throw it to the big fella short of the plane and see what he can do? It looked like a hard play to defend against with both ‘Niners’ edge-rushers committing to sack Newton on the play-action, but the pass defense looked limp. Benjamin takes some licks on his way to end zone, but if it were actually one dedicated tackler instead of two guys giving up against a veritable rhino, I’m not sure the end result would have been any different with Benjamin barreling into the end zone. I hope Kelvin stays healthy. He’s been my favorite receiver to watch in this nascent NFL season.

 

Week 2: Knightriders

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Director: George A. Romero
Released: 1981

 

George A. Romero is of course best know for the Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its two sequels, but the wryly political king of zombie terror has a few other oddball entries in his oeuvre from the blatantly violent low-budget statement against chemical weapons The Crazies (1973), to the ludicrously bizarre premise of a murderous helper-monkey capuchin in Monkey Shines (1988).

 

Knightriders is the only major non-horror project that Romero has helmed, but this story of a group of fringe bikers, putting on fully motorized jousting tournaments for the benefit of curious gawkers at Renaissance Fairs rates as one of the very best in Uncle George’s output.

 

The combination of outlaw cool mixed with the freedom and fun of the traveling circus is made even more fascinating by the performers’ dedication to living under a medieval code. Ed Harris may be “King Billy,” but that doesn’t mean The Black Knight, special effects legend and sometimes actor Tom Savini, can’t challenge him. To my mind, this is Savini’s finest performance in front of the camera with his cocaine-fueled ego dishing out heaping helpings of snark and petulance.

 

At two and a half hours it’s a little long for a genre flick for sure, but that allows Romero to explore plenty of interesting and unexpected avenues. While the obvious thrust is the difficulty of living a truly alternative lifestyle under one’s own rules, other concepts like the dilution of what’s cool and worthwhile when outside money is injected into a vibrant subculture, as well as the pitfalls of celebrity that come with being a corporate shill. Most impressively, Romero addresses the homosexuality of a troupe member, and the bald-faced and truly humanistic treatment feels downright revolutionary in an early 80’s movie.

 

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While there are no undead decapitations or cannibalistic disembowelings on hand, the choreographed motorcycle stunts have a gritty authenticity thanks to the lack of over-editing, and the whole film has a synergistic DIY feel both in its subject matter and production style.

 

They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

 

Trailer:

 

Full Movie:

 

Free in eight parts on Youtube. Disc available through Netflix. Streaming rental available through Amazon video.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 1: Derek Carr and The Giant Claw

Written by :
Published on : September 14, 2016

 

 

 

Welcome to my new digs blobs and ghouls! While the last NFL season was spent woozily sprawled out on the couch with the room spinning, this year I’ve decided to take refuge in my macabre sanctuary. A place where I can obsess over the week’s best play as well as the week’s weirdest movie in peace. Without the cruel admonishments of so called “tasteful” film critics.

 

Pull up an electric chair, lay back on the rack, and get comfy as I run the tape.

 

Week 1: Derek Carr Strong Run and Vault For First Down

 

 

Now those familiar with the old Pretzel know that I have a certain weakness for the defensive side of the ball. As such, I was hoping to start the season with a big sack, safety, pick, or crucial stop, but after reviewing all the tape I couldn’t get this one out of my head.

 

It’s a tie game in New Orleans well before the half, and the Saints send a couple of extra guys after Carr on a 3rd and 9. After a quick scan downfield, the Oakland QB scoots to the left and takes off, and while most of the focus rightly belongs on his acrobatic flip-dive for the first, I really like the determined run that got him to that point. Even in slow-mo, the guy’s legs are a blur. There’s something about this play that while risky, also smacks of the irrepressible excitement of football’s return. I’m not saying that Carr wouldn’t be able to repeat such a feat in say week 15, but I am saying that the likelihood of it is rarer than an ex-convict’s first steak out of the joint.

 

Week 1: The Giant Claw

Director: Fred F. Sears
Released: 1957

 

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Val Lewton became deservedly famous for producing a series of fright flicks for RKO that traded in on atmosphere and what WASN’T seen, leaving the scares to your imagination and keeping the production’s budget manageable. But sometimes you just want to see the damn monster, and I want my monsters like this.

 

Behold The Giant Claw: A massive and indestructible flying chicken with the head of a vulture, a beak lined with rows of T-Rex teeth, and a bitchin’ Mohawk to boot. This one fits solidly into that 1950’s commie-hating, nuclear-annihilation-shit-scared, national-security-at-all-cost zeitgeist that gave us wonderful films like Them! and The Thing From Another World.

 

You’re obviously in this one for the ugly puppet, but television vet Jeff Morrow and female lead Mora Corday dabble in some genuinely clever and romantic back-and-forth dialogue that is much better than the usual filler these types of flicks tend to have between action scenes.

 

Behold the trailer!

 

 

And the entire thang for the craven and brave!

 

 

Until next week, gang… Stay creepy.

 

 


The Route Less Run – An Appreciation of Alternative Fantasy Football Rules

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Published on : September 3, 2016

 

In terms of being a football nut, I haven’t actually been playing fantasy all that long: only the last five seasons or so. I can’t really remember why I decided to jump in when I hadn’t before, but I’m sure it was something as simple and uninspiring as getting an invitation to join a league run by a friend. “Why not?”

 

It was pretty apparent from the get-go that I was hooked, but it wasn’t until the end of the first season or the beginning of the second season that the league I was so dedicated to, and eager to come back to each year, was very different from the leagues my other friends and coworkers were playing in and talking about.

 

As time has gone on, it’s only become more apparent just how far off the reservation this league’s rules are, and how much fun it is to play against this dedicated collection of lunatics, psychotic geniuses, and unhealthy obsessives like myself.

 

The league at a glance:

 

– Draft type: Auction with $1,000 worth of funny money

– General: PPR Scoring / IDP

– Positions: QB – RB – RB/WR flex – WR – WR/TE flex – TE – LB – DL – DB

– Bench: Four slots

– Roughly sixteen members per season

 

So it’s an auction league with PPR, which is a little unusual, but what really stands out is the use of actual defensive players instead of a team defense. I sat down with my friend, who for purposes of this story we will call “Professor Evin” to get some of his thoughts on alt fantasy options and his league:

 

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“I began Fantasy Football in 2006 and I was in two leagues. One Yahoo and one ESPN. The Yahoo league was begun by a friend of a friend and had a good number of people I knew personally, but the league was as standard as standard could be. There might not have even been a flex position. The ESPN league was by many measures, the polar opposite: PPR, IDP, league dues, home team advantage etc. From the beginning, I remember finding the ESPN league more fun, but that fun was limited because I didn’t really know the guys I was playing with.

 

When I began Members Only Goal Football Club in 2009, I wanted to combine the fun of the ESPN league with a group of owners who knew each other and enjoyed the playful competitiveness of fantasy football.  This was especially important because looking back, I had just become a father, a large number of my close friends lived far away, and I wanted something as fun and intimate as when we were all living closer to each other.”

 

“My first experience with it was identical to that of many people’s with auction. It was long, confusing, with a significant learning curve, but it was undeniably exciting. The auction draft allows for the human element in a way that snake drafts don’t. You enter a snake draft with your rankings. When it’s your turn to draft you take the next player available on your list. While you enter an auction draft with rankings, the team you end up drafting can be wildly different. You find yourself drafting players you never thought you would because they are undervalued and you can get them at a discount. Similarly, if you are too committed to your pre-draft rankings you can risk your whole team because you overpay for a player, cutting into the money your budgeted other positions.”

 

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“As far as the rules of our league, they are definitely unconventional, but as fantasy becomes more popular I can’t believe that they are rare. Roster wise IDP and no Kickers are definitely less popular than team defense, and kickers. No one really enjoys picking kickers, if they are on a team, they are usually cut every week, and often their points feel arbitrary. The spirit behind the IDP is to have owners, put more thought into their roster than simply “this is a good defense.” The league is full of good IDPs and if you were doing team Ds you would just be drafting that team for that one player (JJ Watt).

 

IDP gives you more ways to tweak your team week-to-week. But in a way that is more thoughtful than, ‘pick up the D playing the worst team.’ One big weird thing about our league is we have two flex positions RB/WR and TE/WR, as two TE formations become more popular in the NFL it was a way of reflecting that in the league. And finally, I think we value pass TDs equal to rush TDs, which is unique, but I think important considering over the last five years (and before) RBs are less reliable in fantasy and the NFL is a lot more pass happy.”

 

“I think that email I sent about the balance between competitive fun and dickish behavior speaks to the challenges of being in the league and finding new owners. Like I said in that email, at its heart this is just a way for friends to connect over distances. Because of that, when friends decide they don’t want to do the league anymore, it’s a little heartbreaking. Sometimes they give reasons, sometimes they don’t. If they do, it might be because they are busy or don’t have the money, but in the back of my head, I always feel like it’s because they didn’t have fun. I take it more personally than I should but I do my best to run the league like you might host a party, doing my best to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I think that’s probably why I do the weekly updates. One of the big challenges with losing and keeping owners is that the league is large. Part of the competitive spirit of the league comes from the fact that is has 16 teams, we could easily run a season at 12 or 14, but I do my best to keep it at 16. But it can be hard to find new owners to keep it there.”

 

Thanks to my buddy, the professor, for answering some questions and for running such a fun league.

 

 


Cheerleading in Football: Thoughts From A Year’s Worth of Personal Observation.

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Published on : July 5, 2016

 

A few weeks ago Rod Wood, President and CEO of the Lions, announced that the team would be adding a cheerleading squad for its 2016 season. Bummer. In an interview with Lions journalist Tori Petry he repeated in several instances that the decision was based on fan outreach, what they thought, and what they wanted. My understanding is that current ascendant/badass owner Martha Ford was not in favor of including cheerleaders in the Ford Field experience, but Wood explained that she consented once the overwhelming data suggested that this is what the public desired.

 

I’m very opposed to cheerleaders in the NFL, though I’m the first to admit that my opinions are more based on personal preference and capriciousness than anything else. It comes down to two factors: the concrete reality of commerce and the more immaterial realms of community and equality. I think by now every serious major-league sports fan has heard some awful story in which the women of a cheerleading team have complained of lousy pay at best, and revoltingly sexist working conditions at the worst.

 

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I’m not totally opposed to cheerleading outright. I moved to Los Angeles because my wife got a job at one of those fancy private high schools where movie stars send their kids. An added benefit of her gig was that I got to attend a few of the school’s football games over the last two seasons. In addition to the boys on the field there were the cheerleaders doing their routines in front of us. Having had little experience with high school football or cheerleading in my youth (hockey and lacrosse were the sports of choice in my neck of the woods, and most of the players, including myself, were involved in leagues outside of school), I was delighted. The bulletproof wholesomeness of the whole thing was heart melting, and the girls on the sidelines really did a great job of pumping us all up. As a jaded, cigarette-smoking, wannabe-intellectual teen I would’ve been embarrassed to be caught anywhere near a varsity cheerleader, but as a sentimental adult I now have a hard time finding fault with it at the high school level. If I had a daughter who really wanted to do it, I’d support her.

 

College is another beast altogether. I went to see a USC Trojans game and the cheerleading experience was something completely different from watching the sweet “aw shucks” innocence of gawky teens. A total one-eighty from the family-friendly high school experience, this display was awash in hormones, and drenched in grodie-to-the-max sex. And it makes sense. Of course all the excitement and spectacle of college ball integrally involves a sweaty mob of horned-up coeds egged on by booze and newfound freedom. The provocative nature of the show fit the tone and milieu of the stadium perfectly, and these young women were clearly engaged in the event, and more importantly, they were fully integrated members within a community. Look, there’s no way I’m going to say I thought it was fully empowering to the ladies, or that it was a righteously feminist performance, but it certainly didn’t feel exploitative or misogynist either. Frankly, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

Which brings us to the NFL. With the notable exception of the Dallas Cowboys, who have successfully engineered their cheerleading program to an elevated level of cultural importance, I’ve always seen pro-football cheerleading as inconsequential to the game and experience. If you’re not the ‘Boys the entertainment factor of cheerleaders in the big show is on the same level as the premium concessions, T-shirt cannons, and in-stadium advertising. It’s depressing to see these grown women decked out in cheesy costumes and garish makeup doing routines during commercial breaks for a mostly uninterested audience. This is no knock on the women who do it. I’m sure it’s a fun gig, but the societal inequality of the whole shebang is so starkly visible when you know that in a league awash in big bucks that the cumulative contracts of all the cheerleaders are probably less than that of the designated long-snapper. There’s no money in high school or college cheerleading, but there always will be in professional sports. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with such financial disparity based on sex, especially when I “as a fan” supposedly have some say in it.

 

When I took to Facebook to express my displeasure about the Lions adding this element to the franchise (“by the will of the fans!” as Rod Wood declares ad nauseam) I think a pal of mine said it best. To paraphrase: It’s fine and dandy for NFL teams to have cheerleaders (as long as they’re fairly compensated, of course), but ultimately what we should really be doing instead of putting women on the sidelines, is putting more emphasis on women’s sports in general.

 

 


SBS Remembers: All Out War – The Turtling of Lemieux

Written by :
Published on : May 9, 2016

 

 

“I can’t believe I shook that guy’s friggin’ hand…” – Dino Ciccarelli

 

 

In the mid-nineties, Kris Draper was the epitome of a blue-collar hockey player, all scrum and speed, which lead him to being the Red Wing’s go-to-guy on the penalty kill, with a particular talent for scoring shorthanded goals.

 

In the ’96 cup campaign, Draper’s postseason ended when Colorado Avalanche player, Claude Lemieux, put his entire upper body into Draper’s face. Crushing it against the boards in what is certainly one of the most malicious and the dirty plays in NHL history.

 

 

Reconstructive surgery was necessary. But true to his nature, Draper came back the following season as if having his face scrambled was just another day at the office. The Avalanche won the Stanley cup that year, while Draper was in the hospital, and the Detroit Red Wings, known for their Lady Byng-like poise and finesse, quietly bided their time.

 

“Hockey players have long memories.” –Darren McCarty

 

When these two met at the Joe the following year, it was a different situation entirely. Near the end of the first, the least likely of scrappers, Igor Larionov, got involved with Peter Forsberg and glorious bedlam ensued.

 

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Big number 25, Darren McCarty, was the closest thing Detroit had to a goon at the time. McCarty was a physical presence on the ice but he also scored his fair share at the right wing position. Seeing his chance, McCarty ripped into Lemieux and tore his helmet off in one of Hockeytown’s greatest spectacles. I remember watching this happening live as a kid and couldn’t understand why Lemieux didn’t fight back. The big bad wolf crumpled to the ice in a pathetic effort to protect his head while McCarty’s bare fists tore skin and drew blood. From that day on, Lemieux was less than a paper tiger. He was a man who openly displayed his spineless cowardice to all of hockeydom on local television.

 

McCarty ended up dragging Lemieux around the ice in a two-team brawl that ended up with 18 fighting majors. Lemieux, face bloodied, retreated to the locker room, and was buried forever as far as Wings fans were concerned.

 

 

“They were after Claude and we expected it. McCarty’s a big guy and he should face him at least, stand up and go after Claude if he wants to do something.” – Patrick Roy

 

It was sweet to see McCarty avenge Kris Draper, but the overlooked gem of the night was Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon slugging it out. I think it’s fair to say that Roy was a legendary villain for any Red Wings fan of the 90’s, and as much as I used to hate him, I kind of admire him in hindsight. He came to the aid of Claude Lemieux, streaking past the centerline even while encumbered with all that padding, only to be hammered by Brendan Shanahan in a flying collision that knocked both men to the ice. Roy’s blood was understandably up by the time Vernon got to him and the two ‘tenders went at it. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but I have it on good authority that the hockey gods smile every time two goaltenders fight. By the time the blood was scraped off the ice there was more than two whole periods left to play.

 

Darren McCarty scored the game winner in OT. A billion angels got their wings that night. They were all colored red.

 

 


Two Realistic and One Completely Absurd Way to Make NHL Hockey Better

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Published on : April 24, 2016

 

Hockey is my favorite. I played it as a kid and was fortunate enough to be a young fan in the 90’s when the Red Wings were a dynasty. As much as I love football, a big part of me knows that the Stanley Cup playoffs are way more satisfying and epic than the short post-season lead up to the Superbowl.

 

But over the past decade, I’ve noticed my enjoyment diminish a little in watching the NHL. I’m not as wild about the way the game is played these days, and I know I’m not alone in a vacuum, as I find myself agreeing completely with crotchety old Mickey Redmond as he complains incessantly about this or that.

 

I love hockey. I love Mickey Redmond. I want to love the NHL like I used to. The problem doesn’t lie within the great sport of hockey by any means; it lies within the current gestalt of the NHL, which makes change for the better possible.

 

Therefore, I humbly present two realistic and one completely absurd ways to make NHL hockey better:

 

 

1.) Move from the North American to International Rink Dimensions. Totally Reasonable.

 

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Hear me out on this one. In the junior leagues they call the NHL “the big show” for a reason. Not only are the players tops in terms of skill level, they are now also enormous human beings (sorry Theoren Fleury), and all those huge bodies on the ice means that players are running out of room. My biggest pet peeve with the league today is the emphasis put on shot blocking by players other than the goalie. And why wouldn’t you try to block every shot headed towards the net if you’ve got tons of beef on the ice and narrow real estate?

 

But even if you love the selfless bravery and tactical wisdom of shot blocking, I argue that giving these amazing athletes more space gives them more skating room to create even better plays. A larger ice would reward individual player speed and creative passing on a team level. Think about how much more exciting four-on-four hockey is, and how amazing the new three-on-three overtime is. I don’t want to get rid of a player position; I just want to let those guys have enough space to do their thing. This one’s provable.

 

 

2.) Less Offsetting Penalties. Send the Guy Who Instigates for Two Minutes. Also No More Slashing Calls For Hitting a Guy’s Stick With Yours. Totally Reasonable.

 

Nov 8, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green (25) passes on Dallas Stars center Radek Faksa (12) in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

 

I’ve already mentioned that I like four-on-four hockey, but it feels like it’s become de rigueur for the refs to just send both guys to the box at the outbreak of any sort of monkey business. If a guy takes a glove to the chops he’s going to react, and it’s not like the refs are likely to make a roughing call if he shows restraint and does nothing, so there’s no incentive to not smack the guy back. In some ways this one’s a little more philosophical, but penalties should mean something instead of just helping the referees tamp down rising tensions or corral chippy play. Besides, giving out a real penalty to the instigator is going to make a bigger statement to both teams in a game anyway.

 

Now I don’t necessarily agree with this sentiment, but the NHL says they’ve been rejiggering their rules to create more goal scoring. By that measure, a more decisive policy in regards to what should be offsetting minors, and what should be a single penalty would create more power-play opportunities, which means more goal scoring.

 

As far as the slashing is concerned it’s not expressly stated in the NHL rulebook that a broken stick as a result of another guy whacking it with his is an automatic penalty, but that’s certainly how it’s treated these days. The reason this needs to change is based on how these composite sticks are built (and it’s not to last). Watch fifteen minutes of hockey and you’re guaranteed to see at least one guy’s stick splinter into kindling, usually from an attempted slapshot from the point. So of course there’s going to be plenty of needless penalties from when one guy’s stick turns into spaghetti after some minor contact with another, which brings us to my final suggestion…

 

 

3.) No More Composite Sticks (or at Least Use Sticks that Don’t Explode on Contact). Totally Absurd.

 

Broken Stick 2

 

I know the technology’s not going to move backwards and there are obvious benefits to today’s composite sticks. When they don’t fall apart they’re capable of some truly blistering shots. But I’m also completely sick of all the stick breaking one sees in any and every NHL game. Whether a broken stick aborts an awesome slapshot, puts a defenseman at a disadvantage during a penalty kill, or causes one of the unnecessary penalties mentioned earlier, I think the players and companies need to come up with something sturdier and more stable for the good of the game.

 

When I was a kid I played a couple years with a “Bending Branches” stick. It was solid wood, weighed a ton, and had a rhinoceros as a logo. It never broke, and I’m now left curious to think of what the game would look like today if, like in baseball, NHL players were required to use wood-only sticks. It’s never going to happen, but it’s a fun thought.

 

 

 

It’s not like I’m going to stop watching NHL hockey anytime soon. It might not be the game I watched in the 90’s, but it’s close enough. It’s also worth mentioning some of the things that the NHL has done right since those days: the aforementioned three-on-three overtime is the best change I’ve seen in all my years, and eliminating the two-line pass was a great move as well. Still, part of the fun of being a fan is the belief that the game can always be better.

 

 

 


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: NHL Logos

Written by :
Published on : April 2, 2016

 

Unless you’re the Cleveland Browns, chances are your professional sports team has a logo. And while it’s expected of fans to rally around the banner of their chosen club, the sad truth is that not every logo is created equal. Today we bring you, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of those sometimes hallowed, sometimes ludicrous, images proudly worn by NHL players.

 

Detroit Red Wings – Good

Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think it’s hard to say that this isn’t one of the most classic sports logos of all time. The MLB has plenty of good ones too, but when it comes to the NHL even many of the Original Six teams have modified their logos to some extent. The only down side of the Wings logo is that it was damn near impossible to draw accurately on your Trapper-Keeper as an obsessed kid.

 

St. Louis Blues – Bad

The logo is simple and classy, but I fail to see anything tough or inspiring about a musical note. Since when is the blues a thing in St. Louis? I’ve been there twice and I’m pretty sure it’s more well known for its Jnco-pants wearing populace and murderous police force.

 

sbs_nhllogos

 

Edmonton Oilers – Good

It’s cool Alberta, if you wanna burn bonkers amounts of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere of a rapidly warming world and be proud of it, at least you’ve got a logo that makes your team look royally sexy.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning – Bad

Sorry Tampa Bay, I love the simplicity that the ‘bolts are rocking but the minimal blue on white just ends up being boring. The whole “naming your team after a force of nature or natural disaster” thing has always kind of bummed me out too. If teams were really going for local color or geographical correctness we’d have groups like the Boston “Woman Punchers,” the Dallas “Expense Accounts,” and the Ottawa “Polite White Men.”

 

Nashville Predators – Ugly

Nashville_Predators_Logo_(2011).svg

 

It ain’t easy having an abbreviated nickname like “the Preds,” and the in-profile image of Nashville’s banner saber-toothed cat looks more like it’s got a serious case of lockjaw instead of getting ready to dine on any number of NHL teams that have chosen to name themselves after an animal lower down the food chain. Pro tip: If you’re rooting against Nashville at the game make a shirt with Chris Hansen on it that says “To Catch a Predator.” Hilarity (and fistfights) will ensue.

 

New York Rangers – Good

I want to say that the Rangers logo is bad with every fiber in my being because I hate the club (I have a Pavlovian response to any footage of Messier lifting the cup that makes me punch a child), but I just can’t. Classic and classy, this one’s got that same level of Original Six cool. At least Tortorella’s not the coach anymore… Breathe, Roger, breathe.

 

Dallas Stars – Bad

Dallas has always kind of had a middle of the road logo, but what’s going on with that quasi-mint green they’re rocking now? The standard black and white, gold trim always seemed to suit them so well as a team. The whole combination with the new silver “D” over the star along with that weird green, makes them look more like a tech startup or a Canadian football team than anything else.

 

Carolina Hurricanes – Bad

1280px-Carolina_Hurricanes.svg

 

I get it, but this one’s a little too abstract to fully appreciate. It reminds me more of a decal that would be featured on a Japanese robot’s chest than on a grown man playing a professional sport. I’d make a joke about the robots being called “Spinjas” but I can’t because that was already a thing. It was awesome.

 

Philadelphia Flyers – Good

Philly might not have been an Original Six team but that logo is arguably the best in the league. As a kid I only played spring season once (that was for the hardcore kids), and it was two towns over. Our team had Flyers colored jerseys and some kid on another team called us the “creamsicles.” I told him I was the ghost of Bobby Clark and then boarded the tar out of him, then blew a kiss to his mama from the penalty box.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets – Bad

Here’s another one that looks more like a farm team logo than a proper NHL one. I can kind of dig on the esoteric team name, but the lack of symmetry in the star gives me fits, and the whoosing swoop of the flag is hard to take serious. If the ‘Canes logo belongs on a Japanese toy robot, this is the logo for the latest G.I. Joe Saturday morning cartoon reboot.

 

Buffalo Sabers – Good

Buffalo_Sabres_Logo.svg

 

See, this is what the Blue Jackets logo should be like! It’s got a military crest vibe that looks legit instead of being intended for the Fisher Price brightly-colored-teething-ring set. It’s great that those hosers up in Buffalo have a logo they can be proud of, especially when the blue and gold do a fantastic job of drawing attention away from Jack Eichel’s teenage acne. Don’t hurt ‘em hammer!

 

Pittsburgh Penguins – Ugly

It’s kind of hard for me to believe that the top brass in the Penguins’ organization would take a look at their logo and say “You know what? Let’s go back to the old cartoony one.” I actually kind of like the call. The Pens are a serious franchise with a kind of goofy name/concept, and there’s something a little magical when you can rep tough through all the whimsy.

 

New Jersey Devils – Good

Uhh, you’re telling me that your logo is a cleverly designed “NJ” made to look harmlessly satanic while being named after the state’s most well known cryptozoological myth? It’s a shame that these guys don’t get no respect anymore, as nothing feels tougher than walking past Madison Square Garden on game night with that old Martin Brodeur jersey. Whenever the Devils mix in those little green accents into their color scheme, things just get so nasty.

 

Boston Bruins – Good

Boston_Bruins.svg

 

This one’s right up there with the Flyers’ logo. No matter how much I hate the Bruins, I’ve gotta show reverence to that iconic black and yellow “B.” Sometimes, I can even find deluded solace in the glorious memories of Bobby Orr and Don Cherry, instead of constantly having to hear about how good Zdeno Chara’s slap shot is. The dude is nineteen-and-a-half feet tall. Anybody that big better have one of the league’s best slap shots.

 

Vancouver Canucks – Bad

Full disclosure: Pavel Bure was my favorite hockey player in my youth and I wore a Canucks hat with old black/yellow/orange skate logo that stunk to high heaven from years of wear and tear. This is the prime example of a team dumping a great logo for an abominable one just to “shake things up.” Remember when the Pistons rocked those TEAL fire-breathing horse chess piece jerseys? Exactly. This logo is so bad that the Canucks alternate image is just a hockey stick. Unsurprisingly, the stick is way better.

 

Winnipeg Jets – Good

Sometimes you gotta dip for a few years before you come back to the party. As far as a modern logo for a new/old franchise is concerned, nothing says Canada (Winnipeg in particular) like aerial militarism. This logo is so fresh, expect to see the next big trap rapper gunned down on the streets while wearing one of these sweaters.

 

Ottawa Senators – Ugly

Ottawa_Senators.svg

 

Of all the logo changes discussed in this piece the Ottawa Senators’ decision baffles me the most. From a completely objective standpoint I simply can’t imagine how anybody could think the current logo is an improvement on any of their old ones. Is it to psyche us out by having the Senator guy now turned in two-thirds perspective and giving us a rapey creepo stare? I give up.

 

Los Angeles Kings – Good

Assuming we’re not talking about any of that hideous purple crown jazz, The Kings are a good example of doing a decent job of updating your logo without totally destroying it. Sure, the classic logo from the 90’s is better, and you know you’re doing something right when N.W.A. reps your gear, but the new one’s got some admirable simplicity going for it that makes the change bearable.

 

San Jose Sharks – Bad

This logo has suffered from slight tweaks and modifications over the years. I understand the need to rejuvenate the fan base and be dynamic, but I also think it’s inherently cooler to keep a club’s continuity. The positive side is that it makes the OG fans feel badass when they show up with their old jerseys. The downside is that you’re wearing a lot of TEAL. This logo is also appropriate in the sense that hockey players can’t take a shot from the point anymore without their sticks splintering into a million pieces.

 

Calgary Flames – Good

Calgary_Flames_Logo.svg

 

The team is called the “Flames” and the “C” that stands for Calgary is on fire. Pretty hard to argue with the logic here. I also like how there’s kind of a Zen thing going on with the basic elemental name. Let’s hope that if Las Vegas gets a franchise they follow this enlightened path and entitle their team The Las Vegas “Impermanent Sands of Time.”

 

Florida Panthers – Bad

And I thought the Red Wings’ logo was hard to draw! Florida gets the award for the most bizarrely detailed and overly rendered logo. This pissed kitty looks admirably menacing, but the perspective of the huge foregrounded paws and tiny hind legs just kind of makes me giggle. Thanks to the Crayola box worth of different colors and the elaborate design, this would probably be more fun as a big poster to trip out to on psychedelics than to wear on your body.

 

New York Islanders – Good

Let’s just all admit that the Gorton’s fish stick man/lighthouse logo was the worst aesthetic decision made by any NHL team in the league’s history. That orange, eggplant, and TEAL abomination is the stuff of nightmares, and I’m glad to see it done with. On the other hand, the classic Islanders logo feels just that: classic. It’s a little funky with the rendering on the island’s edges, and in some ways it looks like it’s biting Washington’s logo, but no other crest evokes the mustachioed helmet-less days of yore like Long Island’s.

 

Minnesota Wild – Ugly

Minnesota_Wild.svg

 

I love that there’s an NHL team back in Minnesota but this squad’s look is too much of a good thing. Ferocious looking bear? Awesome. Tons of trees to get the point across? Alright, I guess. A shooting star for the bear’s eye and weird borders on the jersey hems? Ok, now we’re entering some uncomfortably weird hippy territory. This is the vegan poutine of NHL logos.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs – Good

I can’t say I’m too wild about that chunky/veiny logo they just trotted out recently, but there are few better logos in the NHL than Toronto’s flat blue leaf containing the team’s name in a Helvetica-like font. It’s the kind of stuff fixed-gear-bike-riding design nerds drool over. All the best to Mike Babcock. I really hope he turns that team and around and gives the people of Ontario a winning club. Unless they’re playing the Red Wings, then it’s still “fuck ‘em.”

 

Anaheim Ducks – Ugly

I say with all seriousness that that goofy duck goalie-mask back when Anaheim was still “The Mighty Ducks” is better than their current logo (see my thoughts on the Penguins). The logo’s concept of the titular waterfowl’s webbed foot barely comes through, and that shade of gold clashes so hard with the red-orange trim that just looking at it makes me feel like Tim Gunn trapped in a Tommy Bahama’s. That said, if you wanted a visual distillation of a team’s soul, it doesn’t get any more accurate or ugly than this.

 

Washington Capitals – Good

Washington_Capitals.svg

 

After so many terrible changes it’s nice to see Washington return to their classic look. This one gets the award for being the most anachronistically 80’s looking of the bunch. I feel bad for the guys and gals showing up at the Verizon center with those old jerseys with the stars and the eagle and that gross TEAL backdrop (notice a trend here?).

 

Phoenix Coyotes – Bad

I wanted to make some joke about the current Phoenix logo’s canine howling because it was getting neutered, but my heart just wasn’t in it. What I really wish is that the team still had that ridiculous Kokopelli-esque logo. Those jerseys had all the funny hem decorations and extra patches too. It’s like when the Minnesota Wild designed their new look they were like “We want to emulate the ugliest jerseys in the NHL, get the Coyotes on the phone.”

 

Colorado Avalanche – Bad

Could be worse/could be better, but that whole bigfoot shoulder patch thing is rough to stomach. I’ve found that these jerseys actually look great when soaked in the blood of Claude Lemieux and Patrick Roy after being beaten to a pulp by Darren McCarty and Mike Vernon. That’s a look I can get behind.

 

Chicago Blackhawks – Ugly

ChicagoBlackhawksLogo.svg

 

If American exceptionalism has taught us anything it’s that we are very good at glossing over our awful past in regards to native peoples while blatantly celebrating them in sports logos. So while the Blackhawks’ logo is probably wildly offensive to many, it still has the benefit of looking really cool, and perhaps even being a more positive depiction of First Nations people (if we’re going to go that route), especially when compared to the Cleveland Indians and the morally reprehensible Washington Redskins.

 

Montreal Canadiens – Good

It’s cool that it has an “H” in the middle for the nickname, and if I said anything ill about the Canadiens it would probably bring some form of wrath down on me from the hockey gods, especially considering this is the first year since 1970 that no Canadian team has made it to the playoffs. I respect the hockey gods, and frankly, right now I don’t need any more problems in my life.

 

 


Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Manning’s Different Uses of Football Celebrity

Written by :
Published on : March 10, 2016

 

 

On any given Sunday… It’s a hoary old adage that’s likely to annoy more than anything if your team is up against the Patriots that week, but there is at least one absolute guarantee for game-day: you will see Peyton Manning in lots and lots of commercials. It’s come to the point where I now associate the two-time Super Bowl winner more with the (various degrees of) clever writing in his endorsements and his “aw-shucks” country-boy delivery than I do with his audibles, short passes, and wise crumplings for a sack against blitzing defenses.

 

Nothing goes with football like tapenade, right Peyton? My personal favorite of his commercials.

 

 

Peyton Manning is the NFL’s greatest shill and he has earned that title with an appetite for spokesmanship, and love of the pitch that is truly peerless in the world of sports at large. At this point, Manning’s earned income from endorsements is comparable to what he’s made playing ball, and with his retirement, I’m sure we’ll see him eclipse that financial seesaw in favor of endorsement earnings in the first few games of the 2017 season. After watching a Nationwide ad, next to a Buick ad, next to a Papa John’s ad, it’s not surprising to learn that Manning is an avowed conservative Republican who has donated plenty of money in the past to Republican candidates, including George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

 

To be fair, Manning, like many other football players of note, has dumped a shitload of money into charities. Peyton’s own “PeyBack Foundation” serves underprivileged kids and boasts a hearty lifetime asset distribution of over ten million dollars since 1999. Manning has played his football celebrity to the hilt, stacking obscene amounts of paper in a system favorable to him, and giving a significant chunk of it back. If Ronald Reagan were still president then the elder Manning brother would probably get a medal.

 

On the other side of the coin is Marshawn Lynch. We all remember the “Beast Mode/Quake” run where Lynch showed how horrific he could be for a defense to handle. After that, all eyes were on Lynch and for good reason. Later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl things got a little funny with big bad Marshawn turning into something of a wallflower, not wanting to speak to the media. I love how his teammates try and help out the poor guy, who is obviously suffering from some major anxiety foisted on him in an over-sharing Kardashian media world he didn’t create.

 

 

Lynch came back from the embarrassment however, giving a memorable interview with Deion Sanders that may have been short on substance, but was huge on style. The curious public started to get a little better insight into Marshawn’s frame of mind…

 

 

“I’m just ‘bout that action, boss. That’s what it is.”

 

When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Lynch became a certifiable superstar. In the week leading up to the game everybody was talking about the halfback who loves Skittles and hates talking to the media. Naturally, the endorsements were to follow.

 

Now that Marshawn Lynch was a bankable commodity he had plenty of avenues to capitalize on his success. Advertising for Skittles was a must. Why not? Isn’t that the dream of every kid around the country? To rep hard for their preferred sweet. Flash forward to the 2015 season and we have Lynch profiting on his earlier media silence, and his reputation as being a shy guy, with an, if not funny then at least topical, Pepsi endorsement. I’m sure Peyton Manning believes fervently in the vision and business sense of Papa John’s pizza (he does own 21 of his own franchise locations), but I have a hard time picturing Peyton actually eating that admittedly mediocre fare with the same passion Lynch has for those little fruit-flavored candies.

 

 

But Marshawn Lynch has used his public image in some slightly different ways than mere shilling. He’s appeared a couple times on Conan O’Brien’s show to review video games. The most recent installment involved the new “Doom” reboot (feel free to buy it for me), and the first episode co-featured another one of the NFL’s best knuckleheads, Rob Gronkowski. In addition, Lynch has designed hats for New Era Cap and now has his own apparel label, with a flagship brick-and-mortar store in his hometown of Oakland.

 

So here’s the rub: regardless of what you think about Marshawn Lynch’s skills as a fashion designer, there’s something inherently cooler about what he’s doing as opposed to just putting his face in front of a camera because he’s famous. To be fair to Peyton Manning, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using your celebrity to be in as many commercials as you possibly can, but when was the last time you actually thanked an insurance company for helping you out instead of cursing them for not adequately covering you after you’ve been paying them steadily for years? When was the last time you bought a Papa John’s pizza without feeling shitty about all the things he’s callously said about paying his employees pennies and not providing them health insurance?

 

manning-sprint

 

I am by no means saying that Marshawn Lynch is a saint. He’s had some sketchy drunk driving incidents in the past, but as both he and Peyton Manning retire, I’m left with two very different and specific impressions: One is the white-guy QB legend who is dogged with questions about sexual impropriety in his college days, and questions of HGH use and further complicated by allegations of journalistic source intimidation. While the other is the eccentric running back who reluctantly became a public figure and used that fame to promote himself humorously, as well as promote his own pet interests.

 

It’s a question of optics that I think Marshawn Lynch ultimately wins. We’ll be seeing less and less of Lynch over the years, while steadily seeing Peyton (at least) every Sunday ad nauseum. Lynch’s violin plays to the better angels of our long lost punk rock youth, what we valued before the world crushed us. Meanwhile Manning is the establishment: your rich uncle who you secretly can’t stand.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Review ‘N Brew: Conference Championships

Written by :
Published on : January 27, 2016

 

 

 

In this little corner Roger Pretzel will review his favorite play of the week along with a thoughtful review of what beverage he was imbibing at the time.

 

Conference Championships: Kurt Coleman Picks Carson Palmer in End Zone After Carolina Gives Up Ball

 That’s so pretty.

 

VIDEO: HERE

 

 

All right guys, after these Conference Championships I’m officially excited for the Super Bowl. We’ve got Denver, whose defense threw Tom Brady around the field like a rag-doll all day, against a Carolina offense that racks up points faster than a hobo eating a ham sandwich. Both these games were packed with stellar plays, but one in particular tickled my mercurial fancy.

 

With only a ten point differential in the game, Cam launched a ball he probably shouldn’t have, getting picked off by Patrick Peterson for a substantial return and great field position. He might’ve taken it to the house too had Ted Ginn not been able race back for the tackle. The Cardinals defense had come through to give AZ a much-needed break from the hard charging Carolina offense, and a great shot at narrowing the score gap.

 

But the very next play Palmer gives the ball right back, as Kurt Coleman goes up big for a full extension, two-handed catch that would be one of two interceptions for the Safety on the day. It’s not like John Brown could’ve gotten that ball anyway, what with some excellent Carolina coverage in the backfield. It was a long day for Arizona, and this is just one example of how they were thoroughly manhandled on both sides of the ball. Simply put, Carolina looks like a championship team to me.

 

Conference Championships: A Bunch of Stuff Your Grandparents Drink

 

Your Grandpa called this week and wanted me to come over and help him move the big ladder “back into the damn garage.” I promised I’d come over on Sunday to help him and watch the games.

 

After the minute-and-a-half it took to return the ladder to its proper place we settled in for some well-earned relaxation and football goodness. Your Granddad offered me a drink, and I was much obliged. One lead to another, and soon we were telling tales and getting cheerful. Here’s a recap of what your grandparents keeps on hand for guests.

 

I.W. Harper Whiskey:

bo0056e1309-52_IM220133

We got things started off right with the hard stuff. He broke me off some ice cubes that tasted like the nasty plastic tray they came from into my souvenir ballpark cup and then poured out a generous dose of the brown stuff.
“Whoo –whe, That’ll get yer ticker started,” your grandfather told me as he slugged a good deal of his back. “When I was a pup we used to make our own, but this grocery store business tastes a might better’n what we was used to.” I thanked your Grandfather and downed my glass, noticing that the telltale bottle of I.W. Harper was from the 1970’s. Tom Brady got sacked, and we both hooted and hollered.

 

It was about that time that your Grandmother came in. She snagged a pack of Tareytown smokes out of the freezer and glared at us. She packed the cigs against her palm, and then lit one up as your grandparents glared at one another. I felt very uncomfortable.

 

“How you doing Roger?” she asked in her thick accent, leaving the room before I could answer.

 

See also: J&B Scotch, Canadian Club, Wild Irish Rose

 

Schlitz Beer:

schlitzisaac

 

When we finished the bottle of Harper your Grandpa said he’d “go to the icebox and grab us some cold ones.” I assured him he didn’t need to get up, but he insisted, shuffling all the way out to the garage, moving aside the tall ladder, and pulling out a couple sixers of Schlitz. I asked your Grandfather why he kept the beer in the garage when there was a minifridge in the living room where his wife kept her cigarettes, but he simply told me to “shut up, and mind my own damn business.” The beer wasn’t the tastiest, but it was cold as the dickens, and Tom Brady was mounting a comeback, so I fixed my eyes on the blue light of the cathode-ray tube.

 

I think we both cheered when New England failed to complete the game-ending two-point conversion. That’s when the trouble really started. You’re Grandma burst into the room, waving a broom at me and shouting at your Grandpa in Italian.

 

“You know I don’t understand no goddamned eye-talian,” your Grandfather informed her. I got up to leave, finishing the last of my Schlitz. They both yelled at me to sit back down in unison. “You too! Sit down for chrissakes, will ‘ya woman?” Your Grandmother scowled at us and left the room again.

 

See also: Grain Belt, Falstaff, Rainier

 

A Jug of Carlo Rossi:

Jug DSC01359

 

But a moment later, your Grandmother returned with a jug of Carlo Rossi and two small glasses. Before I could protest she poured me out a healthy belt telling me it was good for my heart. She helped herself to a glass and we all settled in to watch the Arizona/Carolina game.

 

During the commercials your Grandma asked me all kinds of questions without waiting for an answer: “When are you going to have children? Why did that nice girl leave you? When are you going to get a real job?” I was actually quite thankful not to be able to get a word in edgewise. She also kept making me eat these cookies that had really pretty wrappers but tasted like almonds and cardboard.

 

Grandpa kept knocking back his Schlitz cans and Grandma kept refilling our glasses. The room was turning blue from all the Tareytown smoke, and I was actually getting a little nauseous but your Grandparents didn’t seem to mind.

 

During the second half your Grandparents were getting loose! They told me all about their experiences during the war, and how they met later in America. They told me lots of funny stories about your parents and they even started dancing with each other each time the Panthers scored a touchdown.

 

On the cab ride home I thought about how much I like your grandparents. You should probably give them a call sometime.

 

See also: Shitty Chianti in a Straw Wrapped Bottle, A big bottle of oxidized Merlot, “I don’t have any wine.”

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Review ‘N Brew: Divisional Playoffs

Written by :
Published on : January 21, 2016

 

 

In this little corner Roger Pretzel will review his favorite play of the week along with a thoughtful review of what beverage he was imbibing at the time.

 

 

 

Divisional Playoffs: Thomas Davis Shows Good Hands on Onside Kick to Kill Seahawks Miracle Comeback

 

VIDEO: HERE

 

In this Divisional weekend, we saw the Patriots get lucky breaks even when they didn’t need ‘em, Aaron Rodgers completed two ludicrous Hail Mary passes back-to-back, and grandpa Peyton overcome a handful of sacks to take Denver to the Conference Championships. Not least of all, in the Carolina/Seattle matchup, we saw the ‘Hawks do what they do, in attempting to crawl out of a 31 point hole and make an improbable comeback, like they did last year against Green Bay.

 

Not if Thomas Davis has anything to say about it.

 

I think Detroit fans might feel this, since earlier in the season Calvin Johnson, arguably the most “hands” guy one would want on that “hands” team flubbed one against the Packers. It don’t matter if the guy is a linebacker in his thirties or a star wide receiver: you gotta put the game away.

 

Davis takes a massive hit as he goes up for the catch, so it’s not a gimme by any means. Fullback Derrick Coleman, ploughs into Davis’s legs sending him crashing headfirst to the field. Davis hangs on for the showstopper.

 

 

Divisional Playoffs: Booze That Comes in Bottles Shaped Like Weapons

 

Nothing goes together better than alcohol and weapons. Whether it’s taking potshots at cans off your front porch while sippin’ some Lynchburg Lemonade, emptying your Beretta into the air at your cousin’s christening while chugging Night Train, or wowing party guests with your spiked punch-enhanced knife throwing skills, you know the guns and blades are gonna come out at some point in the night.

 

It’s only natural that spirits providers would get hip to this match made in heaven, and now we’re blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the form of booze holding vessels that looks like our beloved heaters, streetsweepers, and toad-stickers.

 

Tequila That Looks Like an AK-47

lg_1825

 

The good folks at Institucional Tequila chose to bottle their 100% agave blanco tequila in a glass bottle shaped like an AK-47. Online providers claim that the product is both “fruity and smooth,” though Institucional prefers to describe the spirit as “dangerously smooth.” Get it? You are going to get lots of attention if you bring this to a Super Bowl party, your grandma’s funeral reception, or a government building.

 

Vodka That Looks Like an AK-47

Ak-47

 

It would be pretty lousy if a Mexican company were the only distiller to use the shape of the famed Kalashnikov. You can’t leave the Russians out. But apparently Moscow’s attitude is “nyet way, Jose.” Kalashnikov vodka is not only named for the famed creator of the world’s most iconic machine gun, but it also has a far superiorly modeled bottle to it’s Mexican counterpart, and comes in a faux-military style weapons crate.

 

Good luck getting your hands on this puppy though, it was a one-off production with a limit of 13,000 bottles produced.

 

Rum In The Shape of a “Buccaneer Pistol”

 

Another export from our Mexican friends, this añejo rum has been aged a respectable ten years and boasts “lots of vanilla and sweetness.” The bottle itself is hand made, and certainly looks like something a pirate would carry around, but holding only 20cl of hooch, it’s questionable whether or not Blackbeard & Co would be trucking around with such a paltry stash.

 

Still, it would make a great gift for that elementary school teacher, elevator operator, or proctologist in your life.

 

Tequila in the Shape of a Pistol

UnFTN

 

Well, there’s definitely a theme here… This tequila is described thusly: “This limited edition tequila is made with quality, prestige and tradition to honor the Villanueva Barragan family, owners of Licores Veracruz. This pistol symbolizes the family’s courage, respect and pride. Hijos de Villa tequila represents the Mexican family in the revolutionary era.”

 

It probably would’ve been better had the family not gone out of it’s way to explain what the pistol means to them as now I’m picturing an estate full of the Mexican version of the Sorpanos, but what’re ya gonna do? This one’s also only 20cl, so you’re mostly paying for a glass bottle shaped like a gun with a little bit of yellow tequila in it, which is generally considered pretty good (think Cazadores).

 

Brandy in the Shape of a Sword

193

 

And straight out of left field comes a glass sword full of Ukrainian brandy thanks to the Albo Group of Companies. I couldn’t say it any better than the company representatives:

 

“A new brand from the Albo group is now available as a gift. Our cognac is considered to have good form and flavor. The new Cognacs of Ukraine come in a souvenir bottle and has been rated as a five-star cognac in a several tasting competitions… The shapes of the bottles are very pleasing themselves, however; inside is where the real pleasure and surprise are contained. Even experts are pleasantly surprised at the quality of the cognac. The taste is classical balanced and the flavor harmonious combined the aroma of fruit. The long and silky final note gives an elegant aftertaste. The noble amber color of the cognac in a vessel of sculptural form will improve any home interior or office.”

 

That’s all for this week, but you can bet I’ll be seeing you after the Conference Championships, swinging my brandy sword, and making obscene shooting sounds with my tequila pistol.

 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Review ‘N Brew: Wild Card Weekend

Written by :
Published on : January 13, 2016

 

 

In this little corner Roger Pretzel will review his favorite play of the week along with a thoughtful review of what beverage he was imbibing at the time.

 

 

Wild Card Weekend: The Butt Reception

 

VIDEO: HERE

 

We all remember Mark Sanchez’s infamous Thanksgiving day “Butt Fumble.” Well, be prepared to meet his overachieving little brother the “Butt Reception.”

 

Hope you all had a good Wild Card weekend. I sure did. The Texans got thumped by the Chiefs despite, J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork trying to push their way in for a touchdown, Blair Walsh inconceivably chumped a game-losing gimme field goal, and bedlam broke out as the Bungles self-destructed in a horrific conflagration of failure.

 

During that strange, dark evening in Cincinnati there were some truly nasty head hits, Big Ben got his shoulder busted, and a couple of shameful penalties stitched up the game in the Steelers favor. Martavis Bryant’s acrobatic reception in the third was the game’s first touchdown and put a serious hurt on the trailing Bengals. Seen in broadcast the catch didn’t look particularly remarkable, but when slowed down one gets a jaw-dropping view of Bryant juggling the ball through his legs as he flips forward in order to prevent it from touching the turf.

 

It’s as good a catch as I’ve seen all year.

 

 

Wild Card Weekend: A Whole Case of Cream Ales

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The first of these I ever had was Genesee Cream Ale, which is not surprising seeing as how Genny is still the biggest name in the game. Smooth, light, and damn satisfying this was a beer made for crushing can-after-can on a lazy football Sunday. As its name suggests, cream ale uses a top-fermenting yeast (making it an ale), but was designed specifically to taste like a lager, and is often chilled during the second phase of fermentation like a lager.

 

 

 photo Robin-Hood-Cream-Ale-Labels-Pittsburgh-Brewing-Company_47630-1_zpsuzxd7lbo.jpg

 

From a basic historical standpoint, cream ale came about because most early American brewers were German, and as such they popularized the motherland’s idea of a crisp, clean, and refreshing beer in this country. Ales tended to be fruitier, burlier, more challenging, more English, and sometimes cloying, so the brewers who were working with lots of ale yeasts decided to make their ales taste more like the beers that were most popular on the current market.

 

 photo beverwyck-irish-cream-36-36-flat-top-1_zpsmlv9kuxa.jpg

 

Eventually cream ale fell out of vogue when king lager completed its domination of big beer in the latter half of the 20th century, but now with the explosion of craft brewing, plenty of folks are trying their hand at this uniquely American brew style.

 

 photo dartmouth-cream-ale-label_zpsyvezzeby.jpg

 

So despite the weird sounding name, there’s nothing to fear from a chilly cream ale. Order one up and tell ‘em Roger sent you.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Review ‘N Brew: Week 17

Written by :
Published on : January 7, 2016

 

 

In this little corner Roger Pretzel will review his favorite play of the week along with a thoughtful review of what beverage he was imbibing at the time.

 

 

Week 17: Ziggy Pressures Cutler Who Throws A Pick to Quin, Wrapping Up the Game/Season

CutlerAnsah

 

VIDEO: HERE

 

It’s been a struggle for Lions fans (when hasn’t it?), but at least the blue and silver get to go out with a little joy, with a win over the only divisional rival more pitiable. Cutler has looked good as of late with his interception figures way down, but the Lions got to him here, forcing him into his old ways with three turnovers on the day.

 

Ziggy Ansah has had a mega season, and is certainly one of the more unsung players in the league, as DeAndre Levy was the year before. He does what he does here, getting around the edge and launching into Cutler, forcing the bad throw. Glover Quin is there for the easy catch and then there’s the inevitable scuffle. Not sure why Ansah’s the aggressor here, but I do have it on good authority that Jay Cutler has a withering collection of “yo mama” jokes under his belt.

 

The simultaneous sense of sadness and relief that there will be no more high-anxiety, beer-fueled Sunday mornings is the just the way it goes this time of year.

 

 

Week 17: The Sad Salty Tears of Jets Fans

 photo jets_01_zps3hdil2qc.jpg

 

I’ve never thought I’d be sad to see the Jets miss the playoffs, but there’s something about the 2015 campaign that made me quietly root for them. Mostly it’s Todd Bowles. Coming into his first season as head coach, this was a team that looked all but dead in the water with some high profile injuries, arrests, and Geno’s broken jaw.

 

It’s not unusual for many an NFL fan to latch onto their favorite stories of the year, and I often gravitate towards the pound’s ugly puppy. The Jets aren’t a perennially sad-sack team like the Browns or the Titans, they’re a solid franchise in transition, with no real reason for an outsider to root for them, but then there are those two little doggies in the window that nobody wanted…

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Ivory. These guys were never top-tier Pro Bowl types, but often gained my respect in watching them over the years. Fitzpatrick having officially played for every single team in the NFL, most of them on two different signings, was never afraid to take a big hit on a successful first down run with the play disintegrating. Chris Ivory had, and still has, some fumble issues, but I love his violent run style with feet refusing to stop even when wrapped up by two linemen and a linebacker. They’re two players that made a difference on the field this year, both in terms of performance and perception.

 

 photo jets_02_zpscclprcmo.jpg

 

Of course all this lovey-dovey treacle I’m throwing Gang Green’s way is ephemeral, fragile, and easy to say in hindsight. If the Lions had lost to ‘em this season, I’d be crowing at their elimination. And don’t get me wrong, I much prefer the Steelers, and can’t wait to see Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

 

Still, it’s another one of those fun things about the NFL, where team’s structures and dynamics move so fast that a squad you hated, or even just didn’t think anything about last season, becomes a somewhat loveable scrapper. This Sunday, for about a minute and a half, I felt genuinely sorry for Jets fans.

 

Glad that’s over. Time to move onto the playoffs.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Review ‘n Brew: Week 16

Written by :
Published on : January 1, 2016

 

 

In this little corner Roger Pretzel will review his favorite play of the week along with a thoughtful review of what beverage he was imbibing at the time.

 

 

 

 

Week 16: C.J. Anderson Threads the Needle For An Impressive TD

 

 He couldn’t be stopped.

 

VIDEO: HERE

 

For a guy supposedly fighting an ankle injury, C.J. Anderson shows a ridiculous amount of explosiveness on this touchdown run. A beautiful cutback gives Anderson all the room he needs, and when those legs start popping he dusts four different Cincinnati defensemen on his way to the end zone.

Just shy of forty yards, this play put Denver in the lead for the first time in the game, all the way into the fourth quarter. He gets one good block on the way from Emmanuel Sanders, but most of the credit lies in the back’s excellent instincts and spooky speed.

 

 

Week 16: Vodkas Supported by Rappers

Greetings Pretzelheads! Last week we explored the world of athlete vanity wines. This week we’re continuing in a similar vein with a hard-hitting taste-test of rapper endorsed vodkas. I’m a thirsty boy; so let’s get this show on the road.

 

Birdman for Grand Touring Vodka

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According to Grand Touring they “combine the finest grains from America’s heartland with clean, crisp waters. Column distilled (six times) and filtered through activated stone carbon, Grand Touring Vodka presents unmatched smoothness and quality. The bounty of our labor is in your grasp, so let it pour.”

When it comes to Birdman, the dude is a solid businessman with his label, but I’ve never been much of a fan when it comes to his rapping talents. His vodka clocks in at around $33 bucks, which is more than I’d normally want to pay for a vodka with such tacky graphic design on its label.

Taste Test: Pretty smooth. Inoffensive. Tastes like vodka.

 

Dame Dash for Armadale Vodka

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Armadale vodka says their product is like when “Scottish legacy meets American ingenuity. We handcraft each bottle of Armadale with the unique characteristics of flavorful grains and pure Cascade Mountain water. Then we filter our spirit five times through charcoal and crushed lava rock. Whether you enjoy Armadale straight up or in your favorite cocktails, you’ll experience an ultra smooth vodka thatʼs rich in character.”

Okay, so Dash was never an actual rapper, but I always loved when other rappers had beef with Jay-Z and they would harsh on Dame too. This dude has basically made a career out of hustling in the shadowy business side of the entertainment industry, so a vodka endorsement just seems natural for the one-time Roc-a-Fella magnate.

Taste Test: Inoffensive. Pretty smooth. Clear in color.

 

Lil Kim for Three Olives Vodka

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This is a true vanity product with Kim repping her brand as “a fantastic blend of imported English vodka and the wild juicy taste of frozen crushed grapes. Enjoy Three Olives® Purple as a shot, on the rocks or in your favorite martini.”

I personally like this one. Not the booze, but the endorsement. Lil Kim is rad because she’s never been afraid to be trashy, even as she indulges in the finer things. It’s a quality that feels distinct to 90’s hip hop culture, that sadly no longer applies. Dudes who spit nowadays are considered tastemakers for high end men’s fashion and that’s not much fun. Good on Kim that she shills a nasty ass candy flavored bottle.

Taste Test: Literally tastes like grape Kool Aid with a little (‘lil) burn.

 

Jermaine Dupri for 3 Vodka

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Apparently “3 Vodka is distilled its own way, using a proprietary and time-intensive method, with two separate distilleries employed to protect the secrets of the vodka’s complex origins. 3 Vodka marks the first time in history that soy has been distilled. Made from a delicate combination of soy isolates, the purest elements of the soy plant, and select grains, 3 Vodka gains its signature smoothness from the natural soy itself.”

They go on to boast that “3 Vodka is the ultimate spirit.”

Jermaine Dupri had that one song “Money Ain’t A Thang,” but was way more famous for being a producer on Mariah Carey’s brilliantly titled album “The Emancipation of Mimi,” and posing in photos with other rappers. He was also the mastermind behind Kris Kross. Seems a little weird to me that the dude would be repping a soy-based vodka, which while totally chemically plausible, just seems entirely unglamorous and unappealing. Regardless of taste it sounds a lot fancier to say “I use the finest grains,” or “the finest potatoes,” than “the finest crops of those beans you get as an appetizer before eating sushi.”

Taste Test: Eh, tastes like vodka. Inoffensive and pretty smooth.

Bonus: Snoop Dogg for Landy Cognac

 photo snooplandy_zpsnac1j5c2.jpg

 

Landy Cognac gets down with a “Fine gold color. Pleasant nose, supple and harmonious. Orange blossom and orange peel aromas. The smell is reminiscent of the taste of freshly pressed grapes. Very soft mouthfeel.”

I had to add this one because while I’ve never had enough money for the ‘spensive stuff that Snoop holds in the photos, the regular old Landy is totally solid and affordable. If you poured it in a Hennessey or Courvoisier bottle it would probably taste just as good if not better. This is easily the best product on this list. Who knew Snoop had such good taste?

Taste Test: Softest mouthfeel ever (eww).

 

 

 


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