Football and Me Part XI

This is the eleventh post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Times are approximate…

Friday

7:00 PM – Decided not to make the trip to Minnesota because of my policy of no longer going to Badger football games where they are favored by more than 30. For dinner, I went on a Little Vietnam crawl in Uptown with my friends Dan and Rose. I know the restaurants in the neighborhood quite well because I worked at an [unpaid] internship up there for four months about two years ago; lunch was the only oasis in days that were otherwise filled with anguish and despair. First stop was at Bale, a little restaurant that does banh mi sandwiches at inexplicably low prices. A dank sandwich and soda come out to less than five bucks and they don’t skim on the portions.

7:30 – Second stop on the crawl is Pho 888. We were planning on going to Tank Noodle, which Dan has yet to try and is on his “list,” but it has a line. This is fine by me because I like Pho 888 better anyways–anecdotally it always has a higher Asian:White clientele ratio than Tank Noodle and I’ve found this ratio to generally be correlative with the quality and authenticity of Asian cuisine. Already almost full from our sandwiches, Dan and I split pho with medium rare eye ground beef, well done beef, soft tendon, beef tripes & meatballs. We have the added bonus of enjoying this outstanding meal with New Glarus Spotted Cow and Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark (not pictured) that I still had in my fridge from our camping trip about a month ago.

Pho 888

Saturday

2:30 PM – I get to Will’s Northwoods Inn for the Badgers game just in time for kickoff. Overall, it was pretty uneventful but I shared a table with my friend Greg and a couple of his buddies and saw my friends Jon and Brett there. Wisconsin ended up winning 42-13 in a game that was generally stress-free. Russell Wilson went 16-17 for 178 yards and four touchdowns (I’m not an advanced statistician but I think that’s pretty good?) while Nick Toon caught eight balls for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Montee Ball scored twice, setting the all-time Big Ten record with his 27th touchdown this season and he still has two games left to add distance to the record.

Because of how dominant Wisconsin’s offensive line, and therefore running backs, are year in and year out, it is difficult to evaluate how good Ball actually is but my hasty suspicion is that he’s better than John Clay, PJ Hill, Brian Calhoun, Anthony Davis, and Michael Bennett and maybe–just maybe–as good as Ron Dayne. He is a truck and one of the best Badgers of our lifetime. I already can’t wait to give him a standing O and subsequent bow as he is introduced on the field at halftime at Camp Randall during his bye week in a few years (all Badger fans can envision Camp Randall/Kohl Center PA man Mike Mahnke introducing Ball’s achievements and stats as we figure out that it’s him before his name is formally announced and start going nuts).

Sunday

12:00 PM – I go to The Stretch in Wrigleyville by myself to watch the NFL slate. I had walked by it a few nights back after trying the Chicken and Waffle pizza special at Ian’s and was drawn by its TV set-up: four screens conjoined together in a rectangle in the center with a screen on either side. The best part of the bar, though, was that the manager had his finger on the pulse of the NFL action. Without prompting, he had chosen the six best games and in the event that one was an unwatchable blowout while another was interesting, he switched quickly. The second that noon games ended, he switched the screens over to 3pm games. In my illustrious career of watching football at bars, this is the best I have ever seen someone handle a Sunday NFL slate.

Another highlight from The Stretch were a group of three fellows from London in their late 20s/early 30s who were in town for the weekend on business. Sitting directly to my left at the bar, one of them decided to try to drink all of the beers that The Stretch had off tap–somewhere around 20. He was visibly disgusted with Keystone and Busch (I know, I know–Keystone is delicious…) and was a little over halfway done at the time I left. In his own words, he was “bollocks’ed.”

For lunch at The Stretch, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with avocados. The burger was very good but not a destination meal. The fries were thick which can sometimes pose a problem if they are undercooked and therefore too potato-ey but these were well done and crispy. Overall a very satisfying meal.

Burger at The Stretch

Monday

4:30 – I get to Will’s three hours before kickoff of Packers-Vikings to make sure that I get a table; even though I am there this early I get the 2nd-to-last desirable table in the room. My friend Isaac is holding the table next to mine and we commiserate about how much longer we still have to wait.

My general feelings on the Packers’ playing on Monday Night Football: When it finally comes, it is AWESOME, especially when the Packers are dominant (albeit perhaps not on a historical level!) and everyone in the country gets to see the amazing football team that I watch every down of while Jaws and Gruden talk about Aaron Rodgers like Jim Nantz talks about the greens at The Master’s. But the wait is interminable. Sunday and Monday. There is nothing I hate more than delayed gratification and I always just end up wishing that they played Sunday at noon.

6:00 – Hannah (at my table last week) and her friends Maggie and Katie arrive. Still only halfway to kickoff and time has started to slow to a halt. To help pass the time, I order a bacon cheeseburger with tater tots and actually remember to get sides of buffalo sauce and ranch. I will mix these with ketchup (in equal proportions) to create a super sauce for my tots.

Burger at Will's

7:00 – Habib arrives and hands me a Philly cheesesteak, sans vegetables, from Philly’s Best. He actually had the nerve to bring me this cheesesteak as a surprise so when he arrived I had already eaten my bacon cheeseburger. What an awful friend. I contemplate being a complete glutton and eating it anyway but I’m, like, trying to watch my figure (I imagine that one gets a different impression reading this diary but I’ve lost more than 10 pounds in the last four months). The cheesesteak currently sits in my fridge waiting to be devoured at a time I feel I deserve it. Also, friends Greg, Amy, Cindy, Nicole, Abby, and Kim arrive and take spots at nearby tables that are well within high five range.

7:15 – After hearing that Maggie works at Redmond’s, Habib and I realize that she was our “very attentive server” who I briefly wrote about in Football and Me Part III. We have her take a picture of us and send it with the caption “kicking it with my boys at Will’s” to Mario who, as we find out immediately via text from Crest, is insanely jealous. In unrelated news, this game needs to start like five hours ago. Come on Come onnnnnnnnn….

7:35 – And we’re off! The Packers defense forces a three-and-out and Randall “corn on the” Cobb returns the punt for a touchdown. 7-0 Packers. I DON’T WANNA WORK…I JUST WANNA BANG ON THE DRUMS ALL DAY……..

8:05 – After the defense comes up strong again (handshakes…), Aaron Rodgers–who has strikingly beautiful eyes–leads an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that is consummated on a 24-yard rocket to Greg Jennings over the middle that strongly resembled their touchdown connection in the Super Bowl. 14-0 Packers and we are very close to having one of those elusive stress-free games.

9:15 – The Packers offense was quiet for the rest of the half as the team takes a 17-0 lead into halftime. It’s time for the halftime raffle! Unfortunately, no one at our table wins anything (my goal in life is to win the game bib overalls that are given away each week…I set very lofty goals for myself) but the raffle always does an unbelievable job at erasing halftime. Kevin, the manager at Will’s, is the MC and has a wonderful cadence in doling out the prizes:

“OK, so we have a ‘I like my tundra frozen t-shirt. And the winning number is…394…394…check your tickets…’I like my tundra frozen t-shirt’…394…check your tickets…394…394…going once…394…going twice…394.” At this point it can go one of two ways. Either someone has the winning ticket and Kevin exclaims, “We have a winner!” or, as happens about 25% of the time, no one claims the prize and the bar joins Kevin in yelling, “New number!” as the process starts again.

10:00 – The Packers are now up 38-7 and the game has long since ceased being interesting for any purposes other than “To what extent can we thoroughly embarrass the Vikings?” Rodgers still takes all the Favre stuff very personally which may explain why the offense never lost its focus in this game as it has in other blowouts this year. He finishes the day 22-30 for 250 yards and four touchdowns with completions to 10 different targets. Over the past 15 games–all Packers wins–Rodgers is playing sports on a level that I have only seen matched by Michael Jordan in my lifetime. His accuracy, strength, and decision-making over this stretch have just been unparalleled.

10:20 – The Geico commercial with Brian Orakpo and the caveman comes on for approximately the 8908324648th time tonight. A few quick thoughts:

  • Are they supposed to be playing Scrabble?
  • If so, why isn’t it a normal Scrabble board? Licensing fees?
  • If they are playing Scrabble, Orakpo is cheating. Orakpoed and Geico aren’t words and he wouldn’t have had enough letters to spell “neanderthal” as the board was presently constituted.
  • Why is everyone, including Orakpo, always such a jerk to the caveman? It was funny at first but he’s clearly sensitive and I think that the time has come where people need to give him a break. HE’S DOING THE BEST HE CAN IN THIS NEW WORLD.
10:30 – Just for fun, Matt Flynn gets a rushing touchdown and obligatory Lambeau Leap. 45-7 Packers. Habib and I are sadistically hoping for a defensive touchdown on the next drive as a final stake in the heart. We also really want someone–anyone–to imitate Jared Allen’s stupid lasso dance that he has been doing all game even when the Vikings were down by three scores (or more) and he had nothing to do with the play. Neither come. FIRE McCARTHY AND THOMPSON…
***
I don’t really know what to take away from this game other than that the Packers are a lot, lot, lot, lot better than the Vikings. The defense, which had struggled a bit in recent weeks, was marvelous–the only Vikings score came on a short field set up by a Randall Cobb fumble. Speaking of which, Cobb’s fumbles–he now has three of them on returns this season–are a little bit worrisome and could spell disaster in a close game which the Packers will theoretically have at some point this season.

Overall, it was great to see the Packers dominate a game from start to finish, especially against stupid Jared Allen and the rest his stupid purple team from the state that borders Wisconsin on the left. I already can’t wait for Wisconsin-Illinois and Packers-Buccaneers next weekend. On ‘Sconnie…

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