Sunday, October 9, 2011
Rout 55: A Recap of the Weekend That Wasn't To Be
I honestly thought we could win this game.
I thought the revamped Bryan Harsin offense would keep OU off-balance enough to counter their experience. I thought our new Boise State offense based on sleight of hand and misdirection would close the gap on OU's team speed advantage. I thought if we could just keep the game close in the first half, Mack Brown and the staff would make all the necessary second half adjustments that would surprise the Sooners.
I thought for sure I'd meet up with my friends Drop Dead and Ham smoking victory cigars on Saturday afternoon. Instead, I fled one of my least-favorite American cities with my eyes bleeding from three quarters of embarrassment.
But that's not going to stop me from writing about an ill-fated trip to Dallas. We'll start from Friday afternoon...
--Before heading on the road, I stop into Schlotsky's for lunch, partially because I like them, but really because it's an Austin-based chain. We need all the good karma we can get. I'm chowing on my turkey sandwich when Ex-Boss spots me. "Hey, I didn't know they let you out for lunch!" Ex-Boss exclaims. "No work for me today," I tell him. "Heading to Dallas after I finish this." We laugh and he tells me to be careful. No worries.
Fortunately, I like Ex-Boss so I count this as a positive sign.
--Driving up to Dallas I discover Reason # 3,342 why satellite radio is superior to corporate terrestrial radio: Even the classic rock stations will play something that you haven't heard a bazillion times before. I've heard so many songs recently that I know corporate radio would never have the balls to play. I would know too because I worked in corporate radio for about seven years. For example, Manfred Mann's cover of Bruce Springsteen's "For You" comes on when I'm driving through Troy, TX.
I'm not a huge Springsteen guy, but man, this version cranks. It sounds like Springsteen mashed up with Baba O'Reilly. And the hell of it this: I've never heard corporate radio play either version. But by all means Clear Channel and the ilk, keep playing "Blinded By The Light" and "Born To Run" for the seven billionth time. No one is sick and tired of hearing the same songs over and over again. Maybe that's why you're hemorrhaging cash and going bankrupt. Terrible business deals, horrible and obnoxious advertisements, and the same damn songs over and over again. Congratulations, Clear Channel. I'll gladly pay $12 per month not hear your crap.
--Listening to ESPN Radio in Hillsboro. The general consensus of all my former colleagues: OU is going to win in a rout. This makes me angry.
"What the hell?" I yell out to no one in particular. "We've gotten better every week. The offense is better than everyone thinks, the defense is quicker than everyone thinks, and again if we can just keep it close...man, this could be good." Scott Van Pelt isn't listening to my rhetorical argument.
No one else is either. I'm getting testy.
--I get to Dallas and flip back over to the classic hard rock station. They're playing "Achilles Last Stand" by Led Zeppelin. Yet again, another phenomenal reason why satellite radio is awesome and corporate radio blows.
Clocking in at almost ten-and-a-half minutes, it's Led Zeppelin's third longest song. I can almost understand Clear Channel's logic in not playing it. However, they would do just as well to not play two five minutes songs and just let this one rock out.
It also occurs to me while I'm sitting in traffic that Iron Maiden pretty much owe their entire career to Led Zeppelin, specifically "Achilles Last Stand." Steve Harris has spent the last 25 years ripping off John Paul Jones' galloping bass lick that defines Iron Maiden's sound.
Bruce Dickinson should owe Led Zeppelin royalties and a gold-plated diaper for ripping off them so badly.
--I'm close to the hotel in Irving, and I'm not sure what my GPS hates more: Dallas or me. It seems that the Metroplex is under more construction than Joan Rivers' face. Consequently, I miss my exit that doesn't actually exist, start driving around on roads my GPS doesn't recognize, end up on a feeder road and swing back around to my hotel in what can only be described as a U-shaped Z. Just a series of bizarre twists on roads that I think were born last week.
--I check into the Park Inn by Radisson. Not a bad joint but it's not like I'm not there for long. I head out for some dinner. First stop: Humperdink's.
--I'm not in Dallas very often. Mainly because I hate Dallas (more on that later). But whenever I'm in Dallas I always make it a point to stop into Humperdink's, a brewpub chain exclusive to the Metroplex. Thankfully, there's one right down the street from where I'm staying.
I pull into the Humperdink's on the Northwest Highway and spot an old-school Chevy truck painted crimson with the cream OU insignia painted on the doors at the entrance.
That's not good.
I find a parking spot next to a Honda Accord with an OU window sticker.
That's not any better.
I walk up the long entrance ramp and there's about 15 OU fans huddled around the patio area. One of the OU fans, a skinny man with a quasi-porn mustache says to me, "You better be careful in there." I'm wearing a brand-new burnt orange polo and khakis.
"Don't worry," I say with a smile. "Someone will have my back."
I saunter into the bar area. There's absolutely no one wearing burnt orange. The entire bar area is one gigantic Soonerpalooza. I walk towards the back of the restaurant. The sports radio station from OKC is broadcasting from the back of the bar and told all of their listeners to meet there.
Not one soul has my back at Humperdink's. Every single person from here to Hobart is a carnie-lookin' freak clad in crimson and cream. At this point, I'm Yankee Doodle Dandy waiving the Stars and Stripes in Pyongyang.
This is not only bad, this is potentially dangerous. I make eye contact with no one because one wrong step towards a booze-soaked Sooner and I could end up like this.
I talk to the hostess, and ask her which Humperdink's is the closest from where I am now. She doesn't know. Of course she doesn't. She asks the girl next to her. She doesn't know either. Of course they don't know.
Eventually, after much discussion back and forth between two other people who live in Dallas but don't know the city's geography, everyone agrees that the one on Greenville is the closest. Fair enough. I hightail it out of there, and porn 'stache Sooner fan spots me walking out.
"Told you. You walked into the wrong bar, man," he said.
"Live and learn. That's all you can do," I tell him.
Well, that and not get your balls ripped out in enemy territory.
--The GPS tells me to keep going down the NW Highway for a few miles. Cruising this stretch, it reminds me why I can't stand Dallas. To be fair, it's nice. Nice and soul-crushingly sterile. Every vehicle next to me is an SUV of some sort. Escalades, Hummers, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Roll Over Rovers. It's almost as if Dallas had once heard of the phrase "green," but then said "You know, it ain't easy bein' green" and just quit trying.
Everything along the NW Highway in Dallas is a strip mall painted an off and un-offending white filled with generic, unassuming stores and unassuming fast food chains. All the streets' meridians are well-manicured and lush grass spills out from the embankments separating the north from the southbound lanes.
Meanwhile, Texas has been in a record-setting drought for much of 2011.
But the thing that perhaps pisses me off about Dallas more than anything was seeing the gated communities all along the road. To me, a gated housing community doesn't signify safety. At least not here it doesn't. It signifies exclusivity, and it signals a desire to shield themselves from the outside world, and anything that might be out of the ordinary.
So in Dallas, you drive your safe SUV, you shop at safe, unassuming stores and live in a safe, gated community. For many people in Dallas their world is a safe, unassuming bubble. It's a Stepford Wife's dream come true.
But God help them if that safe, unassuming bubble pops. And we all know one thing. This is life. It will pop. It always does.
--My friend Brad calls me while I'm navigating my way to Humperdink's. He wants to know my thoughts on Hank Williams Jr. being shown the door on MNF after dropping a Hitler reference on Fox News recently. I tell him it's about 20 years too late, but that's because I think that song is ridiculous and should have been put out of its misery a long time ago.
I tell him I have to go, but not before he advises me to get to the watch party tomorrow two hours ahead of time. Texas-OU kicks off at 11 AM. So get there at 9 AM, and start drinking at when? 9:30?
--The Humperdink's on Greenville is kinda dark, and I don't mean dark in a gritty, cool sorta way. This is the kinda dark where it makes you wonder if they forgot to pay the light bill. All the neon beer lights obscure the fact that there's hardly any other light in the joint. Which, in turn, obscures the fact that it looks like Humperdink's hasn't cleaned the carpet since the Clinton administration. So far, the Humperdink's on the NW Highway trumps the one on Greenville, if you don't count the fact that three quarters of the state of Oklahoma was at the NW Highway location. That said, though, I sit down anyway and order their Oktoberfest beer. Oktoberfest beer is quite possibly my favorite style of beer. Note to all brewers: If you make Oktoberfest-style beer year-round, I will drink it year-round. That's a promise. And yes, their Oktoberfest was a winner, and that's a good think because their menu was dominated by light beer, a raspberry blonde and a Bud Light Lime knock-off.
Seriously. Even when Dallas gives me stuff I like such as brewpubs, they manage to screw it up with a dingy, uninviting feel and a beer menu that looks like something from a Sex and the City watch party.
I'm sipping on my beer while I shoot Drop Dead a text to find out where he's at. We're supposed to meet tonight at a bar called Lee Harvey's. He's at Manny's, a Tex-Mex joint in Uptown Dallas. I let him know that I'm drinking an Oktoberfest beer, watching Game 5 of the Milwaukee-Arizona series and I just ordered a burger. He probably won't be there until about 9 PM or so.
It's around 7 PM so there's time to kill, and fortunately a damn good ballgame is on too. Brewers closer John Axford comes into the game. I'm an Astros fan so suffice to say, I checked out on baseball probably around mid-May. I have no idea who this guy is, but Axford has phenomenal facial hair.
That picture doesn't even do him justice. Sure he looks like Snidely Whiplash in that picture, but when I saw him pitch on Friday night, he had a fu manchu like Hulk Hogan that had handlebars protruding from the ends of the fu manchu itself. He looks like he belongs in an Old West Wanted Dead or Alive poster. And since this was the bottom of the ninth in Milwaukee and he just gave up a run to tie the game, Brewers fans might put him on that poster yet.
The burger comes out along with onion rings. The bun is actually a really big soft pretzel. Given that the Tray family has a history of heart issues, I'm pretty sure my ticker hates everything I just ordered. It'll get over it.
I finish my burger and rings and order another beer. The Brewers come back in the bottom of the 10th to win. If the Brewers win the World Series, we may be entering into a golden age of facial hair for closers. Last year, it was Brian Wilson.
This year it might be a cross between Wyatt Earp and John Wilkes Booth who seals the deal in October. If that happens, you can forget all the Moneyball crap and the new-fangled statistics when it comes to searching for a reliable closer. It looks like all you need is a fastball, a change-up and memorable facial hair.
And if you think I'm kidding, remember these guys? All of them are Hall of Famers.
--After dinner, I'm still waiting for Drop Dead to give me the signal and head to Lee Harvey's. I stop at a Starbucks on Greenville just to kill a little time and to order up my medium coffee with a shot of vanilla and a shot of raspberry. Across the street, I see Dallas Cigars. I consider stopping in for victory stogies, but I figure that's premature.
While sipping on coffee, I get a text from Karl Brown, and an old mate from my college fraternity, and a loyal Sports Karma reader. He's heading to Lee Harvey's now. Drop Dead will meet me there, not the other way around.
--Lee Harvey's is an old-style honky tonk crossed with an Austin patio bar stuck right in the middle of a rough part of town. And by rough, what I mean is the least-manicured part of Dallas.
Lee Harvey's is a no-bullshit, brown liquor bar with a bunch of picnic tables spread across a gravely expanse. I don't think there was even an "inside," per say, just a covered bar with a couple of shithouses to the right and a stage to the left. I head up to the bar, and Drop Dead stops me before I can get a Shiner. He just got there and was going to text me, he says. No worries, I say, just get me a beer. Drop Dead cheerfully obliges and also introduces me to a bunch of other dudes from Austin.
These guys are drunk. Offhand, they look like they've been drinkin' since last Tuesday. All I know is that these bastards are going to be hurtin' come 11 AM Saturday morning.
While Drop Dead is getting Shiners, Karl and his brother Chris spot me. I like these guys. Not only are they UT grads originally from Houston, they're loyal Sports Karma readers too. Which is cool because there's only about six of them in the world.
Drop Dead returns with the beer, and so it's Drop Dead, Karl and Chris Brown plus their younger brother, Stephen, who's a Sam Houston Bearkat and has no dog in this fight. We give him good-natured crap about this until a double-decker bus pulls up in front of Lee Harvey's.
Out comes Bevo (the furry, not the actual bovine mascot). Out come the cheerleaders. Out come the ladies on the pom squad. The band that was trying to set up on stage make a quick exit so the cheerleaders and pom squad can lead us all in singing "The Eyes of Texas," and...
Dudes are drunkenly eyeballing the cheerleaders. The ladies want to get their picture taken with Bevo ("Bevo's ADORABLE!" I think I heard at one point during the scramble to snap pictures with the mascot.). I'm standing there, Shiner in hand, simply proud as hell to be a part of this and to see generations of Longhorns come together in one spot to be a part of a grand tradition. I know OU fans probably feel the same when they gather at Humperdink's, and maybe it's the beer talking too, but it's truly wonderful to see that no matter what we studied or what we did in our careers, we still have a bond from one generation to the next that needs to be passed on.
After about 20 minutes of raucous singing and yelling, the cheerleaders and Bevo pack it up, and head to another bar full of Longhorns. Our quintet spends some time shooting the shit about our careers, our lives, where we're going, a little bit about the Astros' demise, but mostly about OU and how much they suck.
After an hour or so, Chris and Karl announce that they need to bolt. Somebody's cousin goes to OU and they promised they would meet up on the West End with her. Drop Dead and I aren't interested in heading towards enemy territory especially if OU Fan is belligerent and liquored up.
They take off, and that leaves us with a bunch of drunken yahoos, some semi-cute blonde in a Lewinsky blue dress, and a country band that somehow nails a improbable rockabilly melody of "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand, "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Perhaps the strangest mishmash of styles that worked since the Grey Album.
Drop Dead and I both lay off the Shiners and chill out to the band, but we quickly stop paying attention to the music mainly because we spot this kid running from the picnic tables to the bar.
OK, maybe not THAT kid specifically, but definitely a first cousin. I don't know why this kid was running back and forth from the picnic tables to the bar and back, but we immediately thought of three things:
1. Why in the hell are there kids in a bar, specifically on OU weekend?
2. Given how heavy this kid is, is that child abuse?
(catching our breath while watching this kid run back and forth)
Look, I know making fun of kids isn't funny. I know that in all seriousness, this poor kid's health is probably suffering greatly. I also know what it's like to be overweight. I lost 40 pounds about three or four years ago so I'm actually pretty sympathetic to the plight of those trying to lose weight.
All of that said, all of this was even funnier when a fat female midget walked into the bar! Drop Dead and I are visibly cackling and everyone knows why we're acting like a bunch of vicious hyenas. Fat Midget steps up on a couple of phone books and an encyclopedia set to order a scotch on the rocks, probably in a short glass. Fat Kid and Fat Midget actually meet at the bar, leading us to the following conversation:
Me: "If Fat Kid and Fat Midget had reproduced, what would come out? Jabba the Hutt or the writhing maggot from the birth scene in The Fly?"
Me: "You mean like, 'Shit, I don't know.'"
DD: "No. I just mean 'Shit.'"
Drop Dead and I are terrible, awful people. Not only are we likely going to Hell for making fun of the Fat Kid and Fat Midget, but rest assured, our bad karmic outburst is probably the reason why OU dropped 55 on our burnt orange backside. Only a slight regret, though, considering that we got a great story out of it.
We leave behind Lee Harvey's around 11:45 for some much needed shuteye and eye-bleach too given what we just saw at the bar.
--I wake up at 8 AM. I'm never up this early during the week, let alone on Saturdays. But it's OU weekend, and just like Christmas, it's that one day that everyone gets up early because its tradition.
I shower, grab all my stuff, check out of the hotel and head to the Knox Street Pub in midtown Dallas to meet up with the Texas Exes for their watch party. I don't have tickets, but Drop Dead and my friend Ham both do and while I'm driving, they're checking in from the Cotton Bowl tailgate. Madness, they both report. Madness.
I get to Knox Street Pub around 9:15 AM remembering Brad's "get there two hours before kickoff" rule. There's absolutely no one in there. Everyone is still hungover I'm guessing. To hell with Brad's two-hour rule. I stop in next to the local cafe for breakfast.
--Yet another reason I hate Dallas. $12 migas. Seriously, Dallas? If I'm paying $12 for migas, I'd better be shitting gold bullion wrapped in bacon afterwards. If you're paying $12 for migas, you're a fool. Plain and simple. You're a fool and your money will soon be parted because you love to stupidly overpay for needlessly expensive things. I settle for a Bacon & Egg sandwich served on Texas toast plus coffee. It's only $10 total.
They bring the sandwich out, and they serve it with a side of pesto. I try a little bit of it with the sandwich because I figure that this place knows what they're doing.
I quickly find out that pesto coupled with bacon and egg is disgusting. Pesto-flavored ice cream would be more tolerable than this. No, seriously Dallas: Fuck you. This crap is expensive and horrific. You can take your high-falootin' crap elsewhere. Leave pesto in my pasta with some grilled chicken alone and take your highway robbery with you.
--I choke down the sandwich and walk next door to Knox Street Pub an hour before kickoff. There's a little bit of a burnt orange gathering now, but still nothing compared to what Drop Dead and Ham are experiencing right now. They're near the Gameday set with Corso and Herbstreet, they text me. Complete pandemonium, I'm told.
It's 10 AM. Kick off is in one hour, and the bar is open. After my experience with pesto-covered egg, I decide that I'm in need of a malted, hoppy dessert. I order up a Rahr and Sons Amber Lager, and at the bar, I also meet the president of the Texas Exes Dallas Chapter.
She's cute and I'm drinking at 10 AM. This is positive. I think.
--Breaking News during Gameday: Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has been pronounced dead at the age of 82.
Wait? He was ALIVE? Are we sure? Can we get a ruling on this?
--The chapter president and I get to talking, and we have strangely similar backgrounds. We were both communications majors who got the hell out of the business once we figured out the business was for suckers. Now she's in finance and I'm in tech support. Her friends roll up shortly before kickoff as I look around. It's official. The Knox Street Pub is packed with the Longhorn faithful.
I order up a 2nd Rahr and Sons. It's 11 AM and OU sucks.
--OU gets a long drive, but we keep them to a field goal. A pretty good defensive stand by only holding them to three points. Again, if we can just keep this close, we've got a shot.
--They get a second field goal. We need some points here.
--The chapter president's friend rolls up to the bar in the middle of our drive. I'm not paying much attention to her given that I already noticed the ring on her finger, but she looks despondent upon receiving her drink. I mean, this girl looks like she just received "That Call That No One Wants From the Hospital."
I look over, stop paying attention to our march down the field, and ask, "Hey, are you OK?"
No response. I ask again.
"Well...FIRST," she begins. "This cup is too small! And SECOND, the bartender didn't give me the SUGAR FREE Red Bull!"
I stare blankly at her. "You have some major first-world problems," I tell her. She doesn't find the humor in this. Clearly, this girl's originally from Dallas. I'm half-convinced she really went to school in San Marcos and is just there to humor her friend.
--We get a field goal out of our drive. 6-3. Crap. We really needed a touchdown.
--2nd quarter begins with OU getting a touchdown. 13-3. This is bad. We need another score quickly, but our quarterbacks, Jaxon Shipley and David Ash, look more inexperienced than a nun in a porno. Another turnover. I get a third Texas Red. This beer is quickly becoming the best part of the day.
That too is bad.
--After a pick-six, OU has a 27-3 lead. My eyes look like OU's school colors: Bloodshot and white. I step outside to grab a burger, and everyone is texting me with stories of pain and misery from the Cotton Bowl. I consider leaving as Fossy Whitaker takes the kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown. 27-10 is the score now.
All I asked at the beginning was to keep it close. Hmm...
--Never mind. OU gets another fucking touchdown. 34-10 now. The pesto, egg and bacon sandwich is now the second worst thing I've experienced today.
--I make the decision that unless some miraculous happens, I need to leave at the end of the third quarter. I close out my tab at halftime.
--48-10 at the end of the third quarter. The only person sitting next to me now is an Aggie who is loving every second of this game. Of course he would. At this point, I don't even have the heart to tell him to:
A. Shut the fuck up and enjoy losing eight games a year for the next ten seasons in the SEC, you tasteless, maroon-wearing jackass.
B. Shut the fuck up because the Aggies had massive leads on both Oklahoma State and Arkansas before choking both games away in the fourth quarter two weeks in a row. We all know OU sucks, but at least they have a gag reflex, unlike the Aggies.
C. Shut the fuck up because, no seriously, what the hell are you even doing here? Is your Aggie life that pathetic that you need to show up at a bar when we're getting our butts kicked just so you can feel superior? Congratulations Aggie. You win. I guess.
--I'm walking out the door of the Knox Street Pub, but before I leave the gentleman who was working the grill stopped me.
"We're just inexperienced this year," he said. "I tell you what though. OU is in big trouble next year. They lose their senior quarterback. They lose their wide receiver. But our team? Our team is back next year. We just need a little bit more time together, that's all."
He's right. He's absolutely right. Whether in football or in celebrations, we all need a little more time together.
Despite the blowout, that's what it makes our time in Dallas so special. We're altogether from every age, every generation, all united for one weekend a year. It ain't homecoming because for some people, you can never go back home. For me, personally, I live in Austin. I'm already home. However, you can always come to Dallas united by one common bond.
Yeah, I head back to Austin on the losing end this year.
But here's the cool thing, though. I get to go back to Austin. As for the winners? They have to go back to Oklahoma.