Monday, December 9, 2013

The Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football - Live Blog!

Hey, it's been awhile.  But there's snow on the ground, not a lot of people are hitting little white balls with sticks, so you know what that means...The return of the 'Monster! Tonight a special insight as to what happens on the odd occasion that my beloved Chicago Bears are featured on TV here in Salt Lick, and a Monday Night Football game to boot, with a backup quarterback no less, on a completely frozen Soldier Field! DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNN! This entry won't be everybody's cup of tea, or you might surprise yourself and enjoy it, but here's a (not really) minute by minute rundown of the fan experience...from my couch.  You know how big a fanatic I can be about the Bears from my previous post An Exercise in Self-Flagellation, so I hope you enjoy it. Will my liver survive? Well, if this doesn't show up in my feed by 10:30 tonight, I'm probably roaming the streets! Here we go!

The Lounge at Casa de Nickas
6:38 PM:  We're live from the lounge at Casa de Nickas! Beverages this evening, Shiner Bock in my official Chicago Bears beer coozie, and in case things go horribly south, Gentleman Jack!  On commentary tonight, alleged lecher Mike Tirico, Drunken Jon Gruden, and Lisa Salters as random sideline reporter lady.


6:40 PM:  It's Mike Ditka Night at Soldier field. Outside of his ESPN gig, I hear he's kind of hard up for cash. He'll shill for anything for a buck - MIKE DITKA'S LUBRICATED CATHETERS!  AFFORDABLE AND DISCREET!

6:45 PM:  The Bears run defense is maybe as bad I've ever seen it.  Expect a not-too-uncalled-for excessive amount of bitching about this tonight.

6:48 PM:  Dallas marched down the field on our seive like defense. Time for a shot of Gentleman Jack!

6:52 PM:  Devin Hester back for a return. He outran a cheetah on this special I watched on National Geographic the other night, but he hasn't been able to outrun an overweight special teams player for about three years.

6:58 PM:  ESPN analyst Jon Gruden sounds absolutely HAMMERED tonight. I'm sure there will be some some drunken Gruden commentary tonight as well.

7:02 PM:  I love the guy, but Matt Forte needs to officially change his name to "Matt Forte Limps Off The Field."

7:03 PM:  TOUCHDOWN BEARS!  EAT SHIT DALLAS!

7:05 PM:  There's an extended ad for the new Hobbit movie.  WAY TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE ESPN!

7:11 PM:  End of the 1st quarter: Chicago 7, Dallas 7.

7:14 PM:  Holy shit the Bears actually stopped somebody!

Believe it or not, I've lost some weight. Pathetic!
7:17 PM:  This whole 'the Bears have a somewhat competent passing game" thing is really pretty neat!  Almost like a real NFL team!

7:21 PM:  Tonight's meal, a baked potato minus the FEEEIXINS because my chubby ass is trying damn hard not to be so chubby anymoWHOOOAAA TOUCHDOWN BEARS!!  I'm used to the defense scoring everything.

7:28 PM:  Most accurate portrayal of a historical figure:  Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, or Ben Walker as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?

7:29 PM:  Water freezes when it gets cold?  WEIRD!

7:33 PM:  TIRICO:  Lisa, what's the cold doing to the players down on the sidelines?
LISA SALTERS:  Shrinking their penises Mike.
TIRICO:  Thank you Lisa. What are you doing after the game?

7:35 PM:  Touchdown Dallas.  The Bears defense couldn't cover George Thorogood's Bad To The Bone.  In case you were wondering, this game features the NFL's 29th and 32nd ranked defenses.

7:38 PM:  GRUDEN:  THIS BEARS DEFENSE, I CALL THEM THE REBEL ALLIANCE, BECAUSE IT’S COLD AS SHIT AND THEY’RE GETTING SHREDDED BY THE EVIL EMPIRE

7:54 PM:  Is Axe the new Drakkar Noir?

7:56 PM:  I really hope Lisa Salters interviews Julius Peppers after the game.  I also think the two beers and two shots of whiskey just kicked in.

7:58 PM:  I can't remember the last time the Bears had all three timeouts with a minute to go in a half!  I don't think they know how to run a 2-minute drill under these conditions!

8:01 PM:  HOLEEE JESUS! Touchdown Bears on a flat out ridiculous pass to meastly receiver Alshon Jeffrey!

8:04 PM:  Halftime Chicago 24, Dallas 14.  I felt a great disturbance in the Force, like millions of people were buzzed, and their buzzes were suddenly killed by Chris Fucking Berman.

Because I needed another excuse to post this.
8:11 PM:  Today we honor Coach Mike Ditka...as he freezes to death on live television.  Seriously, I know he's kind of turned into a doddering, right-wing nutcase these days, but man, back in the 80's he was like a third grandpa to me. When he got fired from the job as the Bears coach, I remember exactly where I was when it happened and I had a damn tough time taking my hunter's safety test that night.

8:14 PM:  DITKA:  GO BEARS!!! (I just ran through a brick wall. Whiskey may as well be PCP.  NO PAIN!)

8:21 PM:  The second half begins and Mike Tirico looks like he's dressed as an undercover cop.

8:28 PM:  Field Goal Chicago, 27-14 Bears.   Fun Fact:  Christmastime would be 1000% better without Christmas car commercials. You feel like a fuckup in life if you neither give nor receive a car with a bow on it.

8:38 PM:  The Wolf of Wall Street: because that dude from Catch Me If You Can had a cellmate with a story, too.

8:42 PM:  Easy with the throwing into triple coverage McCown! I'm not quite buzzed yet!

8:45 PM:  EMMIT SMITH:  "The Bears are doin' nice job of masturbatin' the ball down the feel."

8:46 PM:  Holy shit TOUCHDOWN BEARS!  They're now up 35-14 and looking entirely too competent tonight.  The whiskey is about to be replaced with a nice spring water.

8:53 PM:  GRUDEN:  THIS JERRY JONES, I CALL HIM SMAUG BECAUSE HE’S OLD, GREEDY, COVERED IN SCALES, AND LOVES TO DESTROY THOSE SMALLER THAN HIM

8:55 PM:  The desperate Cowboys go for it on 4th and long and Tony Romo basically spikes it after the Bears bring the heat.  He should have done what I did on my one career pass when I was a punter for the Central Price Bears in little league.  It was a rainy October night and we were getting the shit kicked out of us as usual. I go in to punt the ball away after our ninth straight three and out. The snap went over my head by about ten feet, I ran back into the endzone to pick it up and when I turned around the entire Helper Steelers defensive line was on top of me.  I let out a blood curdling scream that I'm sure my mortified parents could hear all the way in the top row of East Carbon High's stadium and chucked it as far as I could down field.  Not my proudest moment as an athlete.

I know what I said, but I had to gloat a little bit.
9:01 PM:  Another BEARS TOUCHDOWN!  42-14!  To Michael Bush.  Now I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but as a fantasy football aficionado, THAT HELPS NO ONE!  Got to say though, this is turning into a special year for me in fantasy.  After years of toiling, I finally have a system down and it's tough to stop and I'll shut up now because NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT ANYONE'S FANTASY FOOTBALL TEAM BUT THEIR OWN!!!

9:05 PM:  Jennifer Lawrence...dear lord.  That gal is a tall drink of all right.

YEEE HAW!  I'M FUCKIN' MOROSE!
9:07 PM:  Chris Conte, the Bears godawful strong safety, has just made 4 tackles in a row.  If you don't follow football, that's a really bad thing.

9:09 PM:  Touchdown Dallas:  Way to limp to the finish Chicago.

9:18 PM:  JERRY JONES:  YEE HAW!! AS LONG AS I SIT ON THESE STEPS NO ONE CAN LEAVE THIS BOOTH


9:25 PM:  Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas:  Because dignity died a long, long time ago.

Somehow this dude got the Bears to the playoffs in '05
9:26 PM:  Kyle Orton is now in for mop-up duty for Dallas.  I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the "Drunky QB!"

9:34 PM:  Dallas scores another touchdown.  It's nice to see Orton can still exploit 3rd string defenses LIKE A CHAMPION!

9:37 PM:  That's the ballgame folks!  The Bears win 45-28, actually played pretty good and I only needed 3 karma shots of whiskey and two beers tonight.  This isn't the same Bears I've been rooting for my entire life!

So that's all for tonight folks. This live blog thing  might've been entertaining, it might not have.  I don't know, I'm sure I'll hate it when I'm sober in the morning.  Anyway, it's nice to be back and posting again.  More in the future, including a return of my "Dorm Days" stories as well as some other stuff I've got bumping around in my head!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS FOLKS! 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trust Me Officer, I'm A Professional...

You know folks, in a lot of ways, I feel damn lucky. I've got a job doing what I love to do and a family that supports me in it, even though I would tell me I'm nuts to do it. I've also made some great friends over the years and we've shared some truly wild times. Sometimes though, they get some crazy ideas to do stuff that most normal people would scoff at. And in the name of getting a good story, I jump in with 'em. This is the tale of one of those times.

Now, throughout the year, a bunch of Utah law enforcement guys go Danny Glover and decide that they're "too old for that shit" and retire. This means, they've got to hire a bunch of new cops, and new cops need training. And this state loves nothing more than busting people for DUI offenses, whether they're legitimate or not. No matter whether you're a drinker or not, we can all agree, driving under the influence is pretty much the most irresponsible thing a person can do. You're literally taking the lives of hundreds of people in your idiotic hands if you get behind the wheel after you've had a few too many. The problem is though, nobody's a good enough actor to mimic all of the physical characteristics of being steaming drunk. Although, I saw a great movie starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (RAMONA FLOWERS, SCHWING!) called Smashed at the indie theater a couple months ago that came pretty close, but I digress.

Anyway, these new cops need the proper training in order to recognize the difference between somebody that's sober, somebody that's had a few too many, and somebody that literally has to grab the grass to keep from FALLING OFF THE EARTH. They also need to learn the proper procedures for conducting field sobriety tests. So once a year the State of Utah gets fifteen ordinary folks together and pays them to get completely obliterated so that they can conduct these tests on as realistic a subjects as possible.

Now it just so happens that my old college buddy Ninja is pretty good friends with one of the police officers charged with organizing the training and he pulled a couple strings and got your humble Golf Monster on the subject list. Frankly, I was curious, this whole thing sounded way too good to be true. The State of Utah, driest state in the union, actually cuts a check for people to get blitzed? I had to find out. And it was yet another excuse to have a good time with my buddies, albeit in a clinical setting. I couldn't pass it up. 

I was picked up at 10:30 AM on the test day in a UHP cruiser by nice fella by the name of Trooper Marshall out in front of my condo. Couldn't pass up the chance to look like a hardass in front of my neighbors. I was told that we had to pick up a couple other guys on the way down to the State Police Academy which was located on the south end of the valley. I was curious about what was about to go on today and he replied, "We're going to get you drunk, and then run some tests." That was it. He seemed to be into the whole brevity thing. He asked me why I signed up. I told him the old me, the college me would've been in it simply to get smashed and get paid. The current me was actually curious about the effects of the booze in a clinical setting and how many it would take to be legally intoxicated. I'm a big guy, I figured it would take a lot.

A quick aside, my Grandfather, Papou as he's known in Greek, and his best friend Bill used to meet twice a week for a beer session dating all the way back to when the two of them settled back in the hometown a few years after II. Their routine was simple. Each of them would drink about one pitcher plus one bottle's worth of beer. Now here's where it's gotta be awesome to be an old guy that everybody in the county knows and is afraid to fuck with:  After a session at a bar called The Regis in the nearby town of Helper, they got this crazy-assed idea to try an experiment. So they walked across the street to the town police station to volunteer to blow on the breathalyzer machine and see the results. The verdict:  neither were legally drunk, but both could technically be cited for public intoxication. They thanked the officer on duty for his time, walked back across the street, got in my Papou's pickup and drove the ten minutes back home to Price. That story still blows my buddies' minds. I related that story to Trooper Marshall and he busted out laughing.  I was finally able to break the ice with the dude.

This Fairly unassuming building houses something called the "Wet Lab"
We picked the other guys up after I was able to locate their homes by using the GPS on my phone. It actually worked better than the GPS in the cruiser. Couple nice fellas named Chuck and Dave. After passing up an accident on the road, "The next guys that drive by will call it in," he said. We arrived at our destination, The POST Academy at the Salt Lake Community College south campus. We were led up four flights of stairs and down several winding hallways. "Jesus, I wonder how people can find the pisser in here?" I thought to myself as we took about a half dozen rights and lefts until we arrived at a door with a two-word engraving on the window, "WET LAB."

I walked in and took a seat at a very large table next to my good pal and old college roommate Jose', The Ninja, his wife, and another friend of hers named Vicky. They were already well into it by the time we arrived. Chuck, Dave and I were told by a fairly stern looking lady in a lab-coat that we were already behind and were going to need to catch up. We all had to sign a release form stating that we wouldn't even look at a car until about fifteen hours after the conclusion of the training session. Makes sense. Then they asked us for our drink order. They had a huge collection of the basics, vodka, whiskey, rum and tequila as well as several mixing options. I asked for a red wine and got the stinkeye from Labcoat Lady. Probably best if I quit fucking around with all these cops in the room. After literally a moment's thought, I settled on a screwdriver, vodka and orange juice. Since I'm basically an idiot, I figured, "what the hell. May as well have something a little bit healthy, low calorie booze and Vitamin C! GOTTA WATCH MY FIGURE!" We were told that all of the drinks would be doubles served in a large Solo cup. And since they were closely monitoring our intake, we wouldn't be allowed to switch up to anything different once we started. There was a sparse collection of crackers, chips and salsa scattered in front of us, as well as a large television in the corner showing day #2 of the first round of March Madness. At least we won't miss the games!

The Lab! Looks like your average break room.
Our bartender, a Sandy City Police officer named Steve served me up with my first drink at 11:30 AM. TIME TO GET DAY DRUNK. It didn't take very long for me to realize that my drink selection didn't lend itself to quick consumption very well. Lot of acid in it. I polished it off in about twenty-two minutes and was served my second double screwdriver at 11:54 AM. "To our health!" I toasted the table as I took a sip. This one went down a little bit quicker. It only took about twelve minutes to slurp it down and I was served my third double screwdriver at 12:08 PM. About halfway through this drink, Labcoat Lady sauntered over, whispered something flattering about my chiseled physique in my ear, straightened up and then sternly told me to pick up the pace. One of those things wasn't true. Evidently, I was behind, but it felt like I was hammering them down twice as fast as everyone else in the room.

It was now 12:13 PM and it was time to take our first breathalyzer test into the big machine, the one they have "down at the station." We were all given a tube and blew a lungful into it as Labcoat Lady recorded our results. I started to notice that it was starting to get a little bit louder in the room and things were starting to echo in my head a little bit. I ate six Triscuits and tried not to freak out.  The results of my first breathalyzer after six shots of vodka in 45 minutes:  .058. Well below the legal limit.

It was now 12:30 after we got the results of the first test and it was now time to get back at it. Labcoat Lady ordered Steve to make my next one a triple and yelled at me to drink faster. I managed to choke that one down in twenty minutes and she scaled down the next one, drink #5, back down to a double. GLAD I COULD CATCH UP! It was getting really loud in the room now, and I didn't feel too good. I rallied though and slammed that one down like a champion. I gave it my best Archer WOOOOOOOOOOOO and it was on to #6 at 1:00. I got about halfway through it when I realized it was time to take the lid off. I asked one of the observing officers, Officer Bryan, if I could be excused to use the john, and remembering the maze of hallways that led us in to this place, directions. Nice guy that he was, he walked me up and down a dozen hallways to the men's room. However, when I came out, he was nowhere to be found.

I managed to stumble my way back to the lab, whistling Ricky Nelson's "I'm Walkin'" the whole way. I'm not sure how I did it, It might have something to do with the concept of drunken recall, or my crazy ability to go from not even being able to hit the board to dart champion after a few beers. I quickly polished off #6 and we were told it was last call. Labcoat Lady put me down for another triple for drink #7. I felt like a lab rat. I managed to finish that last Solo cup of booze and juice right at 1:30. It was deafeningly loud in the room and it felt like I was blinking about 400 times a minute. I managed to remember the good looking gal sitting across the table's name, and felt like I was putting on a good face, but my guts were turning somersaults. The whole time I kept notes on the experience in my phone. "I havent Benny this hacked in Awhile!" I typed on my touchscreen. No, I have no clue what that meant either.

It was time for our second breathalyzer test. I blew into the big machine and recorded a .107 BAC. They then added a second variable and had us blow into the portable machine that is carried in your average cop car. That one read .079. Still not legally drunk by that definition. But my eyes didn't lie. I could barely see at this point. As hammered as I was I thought it was amazing that the field tester was that far off. Definitely fucked up. It felt like we'd been in that lab for about eight hours. We'd been in there for TWO hours and I'd had what amounted to sixteen shots of vodka in that time-frame. I felt awful, and we hadn't even hit phase two of the testing yet, the field sobriety tests.

Now, I remembered back to my junior college days when they'd bring in the drunk goggles to the student center at Eastern Utah to try and scare us off of drinking. And I remember my buddy Skwez and I putting those goggles on and moonwalking backwards heel-to-toe on their painted white line. Not an accurate simulation. I didn't want to make an ass out of myself, so I spent the two days before the test trying to re-create your average field sobriety test. I practiced walking the white line in my condo parking lot. I taught myself how to speed through the alphabet backwards while I was swimming laps. I was going to ace these tests. That is, if I didn't kill myself stumbling down those five flights of stairs down to the academy basement to the firing range where the tests were going to take place. If you've never hiked down a bunch of stairs after you've thrown on a massive drunk, I don't recommend it. It's not a pleasant experience.

I'm feeling ill just looking at it.
We walked through a corridor into a massive room filled with parallel lines and what felt like a barely seven foot ceiling. Just looking around was nauseating. There were around fifty police officers from what seemed like every Utah jurisdiction imaginable. We were each assigned three different officers and went through three batteries of tests. Sadly, I never had to recite the alphabet backwards. But had to perform a seemingly endless array of balance tests. Tests that frankly, I don't think I could pass if I was as sober as a nun. I don't think anybody could.  The lesson as always, never take the field sobriety test. It's designed to make you fail! I thought I handled my shit pretty well, all things considered, but I could barely make it through each test. I was a mess. At about 2:40 we trudged back upstairs for our third and final breathalyzer test. I blew a .121. According to a table I found online, that's what a 160 lb. guy should blow after 8 shots in two hours. That's what I blew after 16 shots in two hours and I could barely stand up.

At 3:30 we were ushered into a classroom where all of the officers from the day had gathered and they gave us a standing ovation. At least, that's what I think they were doing. It sounded like thunder in my head. They had our results written on the big-ass whiteboard in the front of the room. As expected I pretty much failed every test, but managed to score higher than a few people in our group. It also showed number of shots consumed, and I'd had four more shots in that two hour span than the next highest person in the group. Then I remembered, "hey, you look like Grimace compared to everyone in here," and things snapped back into focus.

A nice fella named Officer Archie from the Park City Police Department gave me a lift back home across the valley. That drive felt like it took an hour, but it only took about twenty minutes. My head was spinning and I was doing everything I could do to not spew in the guy's Ford Escape. I recall asking him if he saw any crazy shit during Sundance. He told me he was the first officer on the scene when Tracy Morgan started freaking out and babbling incoherently before he collapsed during an awards ceremony. That brought on my last smartassed followup of the day, "How did you know anything was wrong? Isn't he like that all the time?" Officer Archie, obviously a 30 Rock fan started chuckling.

He dropped me off and I pulled myself up the stairs to my condo, returning a conquering hero. I stomped past my roommate, pretending not to hear her request for a rundown on the day. Obviously, I wasn't in any condition to talk to anyone at this point, and she probably wouldn't understand anything I had to say anyway. From there, I kicked off my sneakers, damn near knocked my bedroom door off its hinges and face-planted into my bed, passing out in my jeans. This broke one of my cardinal rules: NEVER FALL ASLEEP IN JEANS.

My phone woke me up about six hours later with a surprising text message from this one girl that I kinda sorta liked. She wanted to hang out tonight. To my recollection, that was the first time she'd ever contacted me wanting to get together. By my count I'd been shot down about a half dozen times before, and had kind of given up on her. Sadly, it wasn't to be. A gut full of booze and juice, combined with my own stubborn insistence to not throw up had brought about the nightmare scenario for anyone that's ever been day drunk: THE DREADED NIGHTTIME HANGOVER. Plus, I'd signed that release form. For all I knew, if I would've gotten busted behind the wheel, they were gonna lock me up and throw away the key. I'm pretty sure I'd end up in the local PMITA prison, if not the drunk tank they locked us in once when we got the jail tour in the ten minutes I was in the cub scouts. I sent her the most pathetic, rambling drunken text reply ever sent to anyone before 10:30 PM, and politely declined. My head hit the pillow once again, just as the final NCAA basketball game of the day was signing off the air. What a goddamn loser.

I'M A PROFESSIONAL!
Epilogue
Somehow, the early hangover was beneficial, as I still had some responsibility. I actually felt great the next morning!  I pulled up to the gates at my beloved Rose Park Golf Course promptly at 5:30 AM and knocked out a full, busy shift of work without any lingering after effects. I sent my friend another message, apologizing for the gibberish I'd sent her the night before. She replied with a ton of LOLs and a "Too bad, we had a blast! Pretty lame that you missed out, ya lightweight." response. C'est la vie, I guess. Two weeks later though, I got an envelope in the mail from the state of Utah. I'd completely forgotten about DUI training at that point, so it was a nice surprise to get a check in the mail for twenty-five bucks from the Utah Department of Public Safety. Proof positive kids that if you work hard, believe in yourself, and know a cop on the right committee, you too can officially call yourself a professional drinker.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Golf Monster Sundance Preview/Review 2013 Edition!

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival just blew through the area, and left just before a massive snowstorm that's threatening to make life for all of us here in the city very uncomfortable for a few days. For a film lover like yours truly, it's a great opportunity to see some awesome films months and months before anyone else gets to. It's also a great chance to see some really shitty films months before Rotten Tomatoes gets to pile dirt on them. I tend to find, it's usually one or the other. There's rarely a film that plays at this festival where I come out thinking, "meh, it's all right, I guess." And that risk folks makes the $15.00 tickets worth it. You're really on the edge of your seat. I also tend to limit myself to screenings only within walking distance from my condo as parking's a mess this time of year, but as luck would have it, all the Salt Lake City venues fit the bill. I also tend to gravitate towards the films that don't get a ton of mainstream play, so it's pretty rare to have the random celebrity sighting, but once in awhile I get lucky. Here's what I saw this year!

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Man Chili makes for a pasty complexion.
Official Sundance Synopsis:  A seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank rules the roost with a rigorous fervor, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost. As a torrential rainstorm moves into the area, tragedy strikes and his daughters Iris and Rose are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family. The most important task the girls face is putting meat on the table— but not the kind that can be found at the local supermarket. As the unrelenting downpour continues to flood their small town, local authorities begin to uncover clues that bring them closer to the secret that the Parkers have held closely for so many years.

My Quick Review:  Pretty solid way to kick off the festival this year! This film started off with a vaguely familiar looking lady, Mrs. Parker, puking up a ton of bile and drowning in a large puddle. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that was actually one of the two only really recognizable "stars" in the cast, Kelly McGillis! It was then that I realized that Top Gun came out 27 goddamn years ago and I started to cry. GETTING OLD SUCKS! Anyway, this one had a creepy as hell atmosphere and was also graced by a solid performance from Tarantino film mainstay Michael Parks.  I was also impressed by the performances from the two female leads, Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner. They were incredibly composed given the cannibalistic subject matter, and played the part of scared children of a religious nut well. This one had a great, WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL DID I JUST SEE ending to it. It has been picked up and I'm sure it'll play at a horror festival or two.  It'll probably see an autumn release at some point. Just in time for Halloween.  RATING: 7 Shovels to the back of the skull out of 10  

THE SUMMIT
LOOK AT THAT GODDAMN THING! YOU GOTTA BE NUTS!
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Although K2 is only the second-highest peak in the world, it is renowned as the most dangerous and revered by mountaineers as their ultimate challenge. In August 2008, 18 of 24 climbers reached the summit of K2. Forty-eight hours later, 11 people were dead. What happened on that fateful day has never been resolved.

Utilizing found footage, interviews with survivors, and seamlessly realistic reenactments, The Summit zigzags back and forth in time, interweaving multiple narrative threads and piecing together events, hoping to solve the mystery of what actually happened on that day—the deadliest in mountain-climbing history. At the heart of the mystery is the story of Ger McDonnell, one extraordinary man who chose to risk his own life to save others. With the help of breathtaking cinematography by Robbie Ryan and Stephen O’Reilly, director Nick Ryan creates a tension-filled, experiential film that will have viewers on the edge of their seats. The Summit pits Man against Mother Nature in her most majestic and terrifying extreme.

Had to sit way too close for this one
My Quick Review:  There's a thing with seeing documentaries in these days of the internet. You can do a ton of research of the subject matter and get one part of the story. But it takes true talent to take what is the given story that everyone seems to agree upon of a subject and flip it on its head. Nick Ryan's The Summit did that very well. I remember the stories of the disastrous 2008 K2 expedition. But had no idea the depth of the heroism involved in that tragic Summer. I still have no idea whatsoever why anyone would want to try to do something like climb a 28,000 foot high deathtrap. But I do have a little greater understanding of the rush that these adrenaline junkies are constantly chasing. One thing I do have is great appreciation of true heroism, and the guys that kept going up into the "Death Zone" to try to rescue people have that in spades. I had the opportunity to meet one of these guys, Pemba Gyalje Sherpa after the screening. He's easily the biggest badass I've ever met in person. If you want to see what true heroism is, check this documentary out. 

As an added feature, I got to the line-up for the screening a little bit late which meant I had to sit in the second row, almost looking straight up at the screen. Usually that sucks, but for a movie like this one where the people onscreen are literally looking out over the edge of the world, that sense of vertigo made if feel a little more real.  RATING:  9 Top of the Worlds out of 10   

HELL BABY
Only still I could find!
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Expectant couple Jack and Vanessa move into the most haunted fixer-upper in New Orleans—a house with a deadly demonic curse. When things soon spiral out of control, it’ll take the help of Vanessa’s Wiccan sister, a nosey “neighbor” who lives in their crawl space, two local detectives, and a pair of elite Vatican exorcists to save them—or is it already too late?

Revered as two of the minds behind the hilarious sketch television shows Reno 911!, The State, and Viva Variety and the screenwriters of big-budget comedies like the Night at the Museum films, comedians Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant finally unleash their codirectorial debut. Featuring a seasoned comedic ensemble, including scene stealers Leslie Bibb and Keegan Michael Key, this raucous horror spoof sics the devilish humor of its creators on the most sacred of genre conventions: the haunted house, an exorcism, and one pissy demon child. 


My Quick Review:  I'm an unapologetic Rob Corddry nutswinger. I think that dude's comic timing is great and he has great range playing everything from the everyman, to the asshole, to the schlub. After Steve Carrell, he's probably my favorite Daily Show correspondent ever. But he rarely gets any feature work in films. He's usually a side character at best. So it was great to see the guy come to the forefront here in this ridiculous sendup of every 70's horror trope known to man. Lennon and Garant manage to get everything right that the vastly inferior Scary Movie series gets wrong. Add in hilarious cameos from just about every current recognizable improv comic on the scene as well as some gratuitous nudity courtesy of folk comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates' Riki Lindhome and we have a winner.  RATING: 10 Domilise's Po-Boy's out of 10.

ASS BACKWARDS
Glad to see John Cryer get some poster time
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Kate and Chloe have been best friends since childhood, when they both tied for dead last in their hometown beauty pageant. Now they are all grown up and living in New York City, where Chloe works as a “girl in a box” at a nightclub and Kate is a CEO…of her own one-woman egg-donor “corporation.” Their past humiliation remains long forgotten until they receive an invitation to the pageant’s milestone anniversary celebration. The unpleasant memories come flooding back, but Kate and Chloe decide to redeem themselves by winning the elusive crown.

Director Chris Nelson takes us on a raucous and wacky road trip that includes a rescued wild rabbit, a feminist wilderness commune, and amateur night at a strip club. Lead actresses June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson have great laugh-out-loud chemistry, and their brand of stiletto-clad physical comedy brings an amusing and unique charm to the female version of the buddy movie.


My Quick Review:  This one is mostly for the ladies out there, as it flips the formula for a typical road trip flick. But it's got plenty of laughs for the fellas as well. This one features two gals that are best friends through thick and thin, but have never quite gotten over their childhood defeat as wannabe pageant queens. And by "haven't gotten over it" I mean to say, are in complete denial about it. But that's not going to stop their good-natured romp back to their hometown. There's plenty of bawdy laughs to be had here. And their Q&A after the screening was goddamn hilarious. RATING:  6 Rehab Stints out of 10.

S-VHS
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static—white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil.

From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes S-VHS, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes—a second generation with no loss of quality.


My Quick Review:  This was my most anticipated film of the festival. Horror anthology V/H/S broke some serious ground when it comes to providing big scares and gore on a budget. So the sequel had a lot to live up to. The premise, a couple private investigators bust into a decrepit house looking for a missing college student. He's nowhere to be found, but there are hundreds of VHS tapes strewn all over the apartment. They start popping tapes into an old-school top-loading VCR and are treated to the horror contained on each. Each tape was its own little horror short.  Here's a quick rundown of the four:
Tape #1:  Directed by Adam Wingard and Simon Barret -  A wealthy man, has his right eye replaced after an accident with a robotic one. The catch being that the robotic eye is recording everything he sees. Oh and it gives him the ability to see the myriad of ghosts that inhabit his rather large Hollywood Hills home. This one had some good jump scares, but not a ton of gore.
Tape #2:  Directed by The Blair Witch Project's Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale - A guy spends an afternoon riding a mountain bike through the woods with one of those GoPro cameras strapped to his helmet. He happens upon a screaming lady covered in blood that's running from something. As he tries to assist her, she turns zombie on him and tears a nice chunk out of his neck, leaving him for dead. But he's not dead, he's pretty undead and we get an incredibly gory, slightly comical first hand look at a zombie apocalypse from the other side. Good laughs here.  I rather enjoyed this one.
Tape #3:  Directed by The Raid: Redemption's Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto - A group of TV journalists travel to Indonesia to investigate a Jim Jones-esque cult leader at their compound. While very accommodating at first, the cult soon starts to peel the layers back to reveal a more sinister side. And mayhem ensues. This was my favorite short of the film and it easily could have been its own feature. As an aside, the walls of the cult compound were decorated by hundreds of those creepy-assed Blair Witch dolls. So it was surprising to me that those dudes ended up doing a different short in this film.
Tape #4: Directed by Hobo With A Shotgun's Jason Eisener - This one featured a group of little asshole kids having a slumber party at their lakehouse when their parents were away. They strapped a GoPro (who really should be sponsoring the movie at this point) to a little Shorkie dog. So the entire movie was fromt he POV of the dog.The kids pull pranks on their older siblings and each other until something otherworldly comes out of the lake. Like a more terrifying ET. This segment got most of the critics talking, but I found it inferior to #2 and #3.
Conclusion:  I enjoyed it well enough, but overall it was a bit of a letdown compared to the nice surprise that V/H/S was last year. Although, any flick where the gore onscreen caused a solid fifteen people to just up and leave in the middle of it has to be doing something right.  RATING:  7 Goat Babies out of 10

SWEETWATER
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Against the backdrop of the American Old West, newlyweds Miguel and Sarah struggle to make a living cultivating their small patch of land. Soon a much bigger struggle arises as powerful landowner and community preacher Prophet Josiah makes a play for their property. As he launches his diabolical plot to take their land, an eccentric big-city sheriff comes to town. Things soon go from bad to worse, culminating in a jaw-dropping, hell-hath-no-fury showdown.

Sweetwater boldly establishes its own identity while remaining true to the tenets of the western genre. Wonderfully cinematic, this expressive tale is superbly directed by the Miller brothers, who extract strong performances from the ensemble cast. Ed Harris is especially striking in a bravura role as the sheriff. With the magnificent New Mexico countryside as their canvas, the Miller brothers imaginatively stroke their cinematic brush across an intense but humorous film.


My Quick Review: When done well, I loves me a good Western flick. And this one certainly didn't disappoint. The landscapes were beautifully filmed, with the New Mexico countryside just popping off the screen. Ed Harris was solid as the eccentric Sheriff, trying to get to the bottom of a murder mystery.  Hell, the director even got a competent performance out of January Jones, and she normally can't act her way out of a paper bag! I was hooked by one scene in particular where Harris' Sheriff character explains to the increasingly sinister Prophet Josiah, exactly why geography brought him to this small town. Folks, it was Tarantino-esque.  This one should do pretty well if it gets a decent release.  RATING: 8 Wooden Crosses out of 10   

 
FRUITVALE
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who loved his friends, was generous to strangers, and had a hard time telling the truth to the mother of his beautiful daughter. He was scared and courageous and charming and raw, and as human as the community he was part of. That community paid attention to him, shouted on his behalf, and filmed him with their cell phones when BART officers, who were strong, intimidated, and acting in the way they thought they were supposed to behave around people like Oscar, shot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Director Ryan Coogler makes an extraordinary directorial debut with this soulful account of the real-life event that horrified the nation. Featuring radiant performances by Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan as Grant, a young man whose eyes were an open window into his soul, Fruitvale offers a barometer reading on the state of humanity in American society today.


My Quick Review:  I saw this one at a special "locals only" screening. This film won the festival's U.S. Grand Jury Prize. This was a pretty moving film, and you get the sense that this dude was on the cusp of changing his life around when he was struck down at that subway stop. That's not to say that the guy didn't have flaws, I mean, you can't spend the first three years of your daughter's life without some major flaws. But you just get that feeling that with another break or two, he was going to elevate things. Or at least become a productive member of society again. Michael B. Jordan had a moving run as the deeply conflicted Oscar Grant that may put him in line for an award or two in the future. This is probably going to be one of those "important" films that generate major buzz. Sometimes those types of movies (Amour for example) seem self-involved or only for the hoi palloi, but this one was just, plain good. RATING 9 Riots out of 10. 

AFTERNOON DELIGHT
Official Sundance Synopsis:  Rachel is a quick-witted and lovable, yet tightly coiled, thirtysomething steeped in the creative class of Los Angeles’s bohemian, affluent Silver Lake neighborhood. Everything looks just right—chic modernist home, successful husband, adorable child, and a hipster wardrobe. So why is she going out of her gourd with ennui? Plagued by purposelessness, Rachel visits a strip club to spice up her marriage and ends up meeting McKenna, a stripper whom she becomes obsessed with saving. She decides to adopt McKenna as her live-in nanny, and this bold move unleashes unimagined and colorful waves of change into her life and community. It becomes clear that Rachel is feverishly, desperately trying to save her own sense of who she is.

In a perfect storm of hilarious writing, performance, and direction, first-timer Jill Soloway pinpoints the ambivalence of privileged, educated women seduced by an idealized vision of marriage and motherhood, yet deadened by the stultifying realities of preschool auctions, lackluster sex lives, and careers that have gone kaput. Afternoon Delight compassionately revels in the existential trials of a Peter Pan generation battling too many choices, resisting adulthood, and distractedly tapping their iPhones instead of tuning in to what matters.
 


My Quick Review:  Endend up seeing a lot of movies geared toward the ladies this year and this one was no different. Although much like Ass Backwards there were plenty of laughs and entertainment to be had for the fellas as well.  But don't get me wrong, while this was a laugh a minute kind of flick, it wasn't really a comedy.  It was actually a pretty dark film about a family and a mother that are crumbling before our very eyes. Kathryn Hahn was excellent as the wisecracking Rachel, but portrayed the more serious content with aplomb. The film took a daring approach to answering the old question, "How do you save someone that doesn't necessarily want or need saving?" It was an enjoyable end to the festival.  RATING 9 Yentas out of 10.

CONCLUSION:  Once again, the Sundance Film Festival provided a week and a half of ground-breaking, imaginative filmmaking. I feel luckier than hell to have this going on every year, right in my backyard!  Next year, we'll be making the trek up into the mountains to Park City to try and mingle with the upper crust. But for a film junkie, none of that shit really matters. Everybody should take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to support independent film making and the people that make it happen!

The Golf Monster's 2013 Film Rankings!
8. We Are What We Are
7. Fruitvale
6. Ass Backwards
5. S-VHS
4. Afternoon Delight
3. Sweetwater
2. The Summit
1. Hell Baby

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An Exercise in Self-Flagellation...

So, I guess today was the coldest day in the history of Utah, or something. This, combined with the two feet of snow we had this past weekend, means your humble golf monster has a lot of time off to to write.  Hopefully, I can make it past four posts in 2013! Sundance is coming up later this week, so there will be movie reviews coming up soon, as well as some stories from the near and the distant past. First up though, a look inside the mind of a mildly deranged sports fan. 

Three weeks ago, I left the cold, miserable weather of the Wasatch Front and flew south to sunny Phoenix, Arizona for a wonderful weekend of golf and drinking.  On Sunday, December 21st, my cousin Pete and I plopped our thirtysomething asses into stadium seats to watch our favorite football team, The Chicago Bears, take on the Arizona Cardinals. For me, it was the culmination of over thirty years of anticipation, excitement, elation, frustration, pain and heartache. I know, I know, educated, logically thinking people shouldn't allow a bunch of millionaires beating the shit out of each other in some far away stadium on a weekly basis to tie their emotions in knots. Believe me, I wish it wasn't this way, but as you're going to find out, it's sadly my lot in life.

To quote the great Peter Venkman, "...call it fate, call it luck, call it karma, but I believe that everything happens for a reason." I think I've been a fan of the Chicago Bears since I was in the crib.  Hell, I think it was my first word.  But life as a fan didn't really kick in until I was five years old. Here's the issue though...I grew up in Price, Utah.  Price is miles and miles away from really anything so there was really no such thing as a hometown team to get behind. My family were all football fans, but they were all fans of different teams. My Mom and Dad liked the 49ers, my Grandpa was a fan of the Chargers, my Uncle Mike a fan of the Raiders, my Godmother a fan of the (ugh) Packers, my dad's omnipresent best friend Joe rooted for the Broncos, and everyone on my mom's side of the family rooted for the Cowboys.

I also believe a chubby toddler in Utah is going to make a huge mistake.
Then there was my Uncle George, the youngest in my dad's family.  He was a fan of the Chicago Bears from way back in the Gayle Sayers days. He recognized the spark and for Christmas in 1984 he gifted six-year-old me a full-on little Chicago Bears uniform!  It had pads and everything! It was even #34, the number of my favorite player, Walter Payton! I put a ton of mileage on that thing, crashing my way through imaginary linemen on the way to touchdowns and glory! I even got my first real taste of disappointment that season with my Dad cackling with delight as his 49ers shutout my Bears 23-0 in the NFC Championship game on their way to the Super Bowl XIX title.

Charming!
What can be said about the 1985 Bears team that hasn't been said already? I could channel my inner Bob Swerski and talk about "Da Coach," Mike Ditka, the gum-chewin, bird flippin' sweater-wearin' stalker of the sidelines. I could speak at length about the legendary 46-defense that demolished their way through the league that year. I could wax poetic about the memorable games like the "Revenge Game" against the Niners, the Monday-night beatdown of the hated Packers, domination in Dallas, and even that dark, dark, Monday night game in which Dan Marino's Dolphins stumbled upon the keys to unlocking the "46" and prevented the Bears from joining them as the only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era. A very dark night indeed. I could go on and on about the tremendous personalities on that squad, the Punky QB known as McMahon, Refrigerator Perry, Speedy Willie Gault, Samurai Mike Singletary and the rest of the "Shufflin' Crew;" who on December 3rd (the night after the Monday-night Miami disaster) recorded a ridiculous rap video, The Super Bowl Shuffle. Somehow that recording ended up #41 on the Billboard chart and raised over $300,000.00 for needy Chicago area families.


Yes that actually happened. From that point on, that team completely laid waste to everything in their path. They shut out the New York Giants in the NFC Divisionals and repeated the feat in a blizzard against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game. Holy shit! My team was going to the Super Bowl! My folks would throw one of the biggest parties in town every year and this one was no different. I was counting the minutes to get out of church to run home and throw on my uniform, like I was going into battle along side my heroes. I was a seven-year-old dipshit, but I didn't care. The good guys took care of business that day, dispatching the upstart New England Patriots 46-10, as I played the part of the annoying little shitty kid, running around asking all my parents friends to try and knock me down so my pads could make that awesome POP sound.. I must've hit the (very astroturf-like) green carpet in our family-room a hundred times that day. Collapsing in elation as Coach Ditka and Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan were both carried off the field by their players, I fell asleep clutching my Chicago Bears football with a giant grin and tears of joy in my eyes. Little did I know, my peak as a fan would occur when I was seven goddamn years old.

I swear to god, I thought it would last forever. When you're really young, the good times tend to overshadow the bad to a huge degree. As you get older, that changes. My eight, nine, ten-year-old self couldn't process why the Bears, while still having pretty good teams, would always come up just a little bit short. I mean, Ditka was still there, Payton was still there, Danimal, Mongo, and Singletary were still playing defense. Like a lot of delusional Chicago fans, I thought that team was a dynasty in the making. To my dad's credit, he didn't try to break it down for me, he just let me keep being the fan I was. He didn't tell me that when Buddy Ryan took flight to Philly, the fine tuning of the "46" defense went with him. He didn't gloat when the best quarterback the franchise had since Sid Luckman managed to start less than half the games the team played during the rest of his tenure due to injuries. Hell, I had no idea players could just LEAVE. I had no idea who half of these guys were anymore as they got bounced from the playoffs over and over again in the next few years. But at least they were still on TV on a fairly regular basis, which was a big deal in the pre-Sunday Ticket days. This continued all the way up until the 1989 NFC Championship game where a savage ass-kicking at the hands of the 49ers effectively brought my childhood to a depressing end. It was the last time they would get that close again to Super Bowl glory for seventeen years. I was well into adulthood, by the time I'd experience that kind of feeling again.

The Greatest Of All Time
A quick aside:  I would be remiss of I didn't spend a quick paragraph talking about Walter Payton. In my humble opinion, he was the greatest Bears player of all time. Virtually unstoppable, he was blinding fast in the open field, but never shied away from contact. He seemed to relish it as he bowled over linebackers and DB's alike. Hell, he even had a pretty decent QB rating on halfback option plays. The dude could do it all, and he was pretty much the closest thing I had to a real-life super-hero as a kid. I'm about 99% sure I invited him to my 8th birthday party. I don't think we'll ever see another player like that again, a graceful, yet violent runner that played for 13 seasons and only missed ONE game. But his retirement was the first time I realized what it was like to have to walk away from something because you're just too old and broken down to do it anymore. Off the field he was known as a tremendous humanitarian, and even though it's come out that he was a fairly troubled individual post-retirement, it doesn't sully his image in my eyes. On November 1st, 1999, Payton passed away due to an extremely aggressive form of liver cancer. I had just moved up to Salt Lake a couple months prior to attend college, and I was driving out to the airport to pick up my roommate when the news of his passing came over an update on the radio. I actually had to pull my truck over to compose myself. Outside of close family members and friends passing away, I can't recall anyone's death having that effect on me.

I wouldn't buy a used car from this guy.
The team entered a pretty dark period in the 90's, beginning with the sacking of the last link to the magic of 1985, Coach Ditka. I got the news as I was walking with my dad down to the local Elk's Lodge to take my hunter's safety test. They replaced him with the milquetoast Dave Wannstedt. While the defenses were still good, the offense floundered. Although, I wouldn't know too many of the details because the local TV station pretty much quit showing their games altogether. These were the days of regional coverage so I got a weekly dose of Denver and San Francisco games, two teams I absolutely despised. I REALLY had no idea who these guys were anymore, hell, I doubt a good chunk of Chicago residents at the time could name their everyday personnel. This was probably best manifested in the quarterback carousel of the next twenty years.

Future Hall of Famer and noted dong-pic self-paparazzo, Brett Favre was the only quarterback the hated Green Bay Packers started from 1992-2007, a time period that resulted in almost yearly playoff appearances, two Super Bowls, one Lombardi Trophy, and a very resentful teenager/young adult from Price, Utah. In a similar period of time, the Bears started no less than 24 different QB's between Jim McMahon, and current QB Jay Cutler. Here's the rundown:  Steve Fuller, Mike Tomczak, Doug Flutie, Mike Hohensee, Jim Harbaugh, Peter Tom Willis, Will Furrer, Steve Walsh, Erik Kramer, Dave Krieg, Rick Mirer, Steve Stenstrom, Moses Moreno, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Of the few names of note on that list, they never showed up in Chicago in their primes, they were always on the downhill trend for their careers. But look at that list, just an absolute murderers' row of shitty quarterbacks. There were a lot of 6-10 seasons in there, the team was always godawful, but never shitty enough to get the really good draft picks, and they never got any better. In that same time, I'd given up my childhood dream of being the next two-sport star and settled on golf as my game of choice. But as a fan, I still loved the NFL and I still loved the Chicago Bears. But I will admit, those were dark, dark times indeed.

Cousin Pete and I during the famous "Dorm Days"
I got really lucky with my first roommate in college, Big Nick. He was a Bears fan as well, and with my cousin Pete, I finally had a support network with which to commiserate as a fan. It's bad enough when your team blows the meat whistle, but when it seems like you're the only fan you know of said team, it's a lonely existence indeed. With the draft of Brian Urlacher in 2000, things finally started to look up a little bit. In the Fall of 2001-Winter of 2002, a quarterback by the name of Jim Miller (oddly enough the first QB ever suspended for banned substances in the NFL) along with a revamped defense propelled the Bears to the last ever NFC Central Division title and their first playoff appearance since I was in junior high! I even won a couple bucks from my Godmother in our annual Packers vs. Bears bets for the first time since I was mowing lawns for money. Just our luck though, as a good friend of Big Nick and mine got married the day of the playoff game, sparing us the horror of a 33-19 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional round.  It really felt like they were getting close, but it would be another four years before they would get back to the playoffs again. But hey, at least they were on TV once in awhile again!

By 2005 I was long out of school and working as an Assistant Professional at the University of Utah Golf Course here in Salt Lake. A combination of new head coach Lovie Smith, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, and a stifling defense got the Bears back into the playoffs. It was around then, that I started experimenting with the concept of karma. and during this season, the concept for the official "Chicago Bears Drinking Game" was born. I would absorb the brunt of their punishment for mistakes on the field. For every turnover, touchdown or just generally stupefyingly bad play the Bears gave up or made on the field, I would take a shot of whisky. I really should've gotten this sponsored by Jack Daniels. I figured, maybe I could buy the team a little good karma and turn things around, or get so blitzed that I'd be numb to the atrocities they'd commit on the field. The drinking game got its first test run during the Divisional playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers, the unintended consequence of which ended up being an unexpected post-game phone call from my Grandmother, mother, and sister in Oregon. Not sure how I held it together on the phone in my "altered" state, but I think I managed.

The following year, behind an even better defense than the year before, a blindingly fast and shifty kick returner, and a surprisingly competent Rex Grossman, the Bears once again recaptured some of that late 80's spark. For the first time in almost twenty years they were able to build on the successes of the previous season and come back even better than before. I was also able to perfect the Drinking Game and it actually seemed to work, as I remember virtually nothing from the 2nd half of the incredible Monday Night Football comeback against a frisky Arizona Cardinals squad.  I just know that they won. And they kept on winning, time and again, eventually defeating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game in a blizzard that gave me flashbacks to that '85-'86 win against the Rams. Two weeks later, I threw the biggest Super Bowl party that I could afford with well over a dozen close friends packed into my tiny house, as well as multiple phone calls to my Dad, Cousin Pete in Phoenix and my friend Carla in Chicago. Devin Hester, savior of that Cardinals game, took the opening kickoff to the house which prompted me to "run down the sideline" of my living room with him. Some say that was the fastest any of those folks had ever seen me move. That would be pretty much the last highlight of the game for me. The Bears kept it interesting, but eventually lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts. Prince's incredible halftime show was pretty much the last thing I remembered from that game. I spent the bulk of the second half sitting on my old toybox, now converted into a place to stack my shoes, in a Jack Daniels induced haze with my head in my hands, save for what I've been told were several humorous drunk dials.

That pretty much brings us up to present day. The Bears finally upgraded their quarterback, although, and this is really shocking, he hasn't quite lived up to his promise. It's a familiar story. They even made it back to the NFC title game a couple years ago, a football armageddon if you will against their storied rivals from Green Bay. Again it ended badly. I eventually retired the Drinking Game for my own health, although my buddies convince me to bring it back out once a season. That's my limit. I'm pretty sure I'd have one foot in an early grave otherwise. This year brought something unusual, a ten-win season that didn't result in a playoff birth and the subsequent dismissal of Coach Smith. They're on the hunt now for a new coach, so who knows what the future will bring? Actually, I have a pretty good idea, but I'll never let my cynicism ever get in the way of being a fan. Even though, they've let us down over and over again. As a guy that feels like sports bigots are the scum of the Earth, I feel good hanging my now battered hat on the fact that I'll be a fan of that team literally from the cradle to the grave.

Oh yeah, and that game I went to a couple weeks ago? They actually managed to win in the ugliest manner possible against a pretty shitty opponent. But it was an incredible feeling being in a stadium with 65,000 people, 45,000 of which, like me, were rooting for the visiting team. The camaraderie was incredible! We drowned out the home crowd with "LET'S GO BEARS!" chants and we even sang the fight song at the top of our lungs when Charles Tillman ran an interception back for a touchdown! It truly was unbelievable, and if you're not a sports fan, there's really no good way to explain that feeling of being part of a crowd like that. But I will tell you this, if you ever end up in that situation, you'll be hooked for life!
That dude in the background might've been the last Cardinals fan there that day!