Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sports Karma's 11 New Rules For Going Out And Having a Drink (or Three)

On Going Out
And Setting The Mood

1. If you find yourself at a bar that's playing The Humpty Dance, just leave. That song was cool when you were ten. It stopped being cool when you turned eleven. And it hasn't gotten any cooler since that point.

Besides you couldn't drink when you were eleven anyway, and if you were drinking, you were probably stealing sips of your Mom's wine coolers. That's what The Humpty Dance is: It's the Bartles and Jaymes of hip-hop. It was cool if you didn't know any better.

But you know better now. So give up the Humpty Dance and move on to the next bar.

2. Jukeboxes with a predefined number of albums are always better internet jukeboxes where some yokel can just throw on whatever he wants. Jukeboxes with a defined selection allow the establishment to define who they are and what they want to be. If you see a jukebox with a fair amount of Tom Waits and The Clash, you know the bar fancies itself as a gritty soul with a depth of intelligence. Lots of AC/DC and Motorhead conveys that the establishment is simple, tough and lacks bullshit. More Eminem and Katy Perry means its trying to be fun and encourages hooking up.

But internet jukeboxes allow the patron to define the atmosphere for everyone else. And if one person gets to decide what the bar is, then what is the bar itself?

Internet jukeboxes may let the people decide what they want to hear, but far more often than not, the bar is subject to the whims of the proletariat. You know...morons. Morons who may decide to put on Megadeth when clearly there is a bachelorette party in the midst or a perfect ratio of men to women in the bar.

3. Regardless of predefined or internet jukebox lists, certain artists will ALWAYS get played in a bar, partially because of their immense popularity, but perhaps because their music seems to sound considerably better in a bar. Remember that lots of times its all about context. Artists like Tom Petty, Bob Seger and Judas Priest seem to always sound better while driving. Soul artists like Marvin Gaye always sound better with the lights low in the thrust of a sexual interlude. Such as it is when drinking. Some artists simply sound better in their artistic context after about two drinks.

However, bartenders and patrons alike are tired of hearing the same crap from the same unimaginative people. These five artists have so many hidden gems that never get played, but can liven the whole joint up just by being a little different and creative.

A. Johnny Cash

Don't Play:

Folsom Prison Blues; Walk The Line; Ring of Fire

Johnny Cash is one of America's greatest singer-songwriters, a man whose voice defied genre and his songs captured the roots of country, the guts of punk and the balls of rock. He threw them all against a Delta blues-framed Memphis canvas and painted a grim but defiant American history. So if Johnny Cash was one of this country's greatest narrators, why are we contented to hear the same stories?

Play Instead:

A Boy Named Sue (lyrics written by Shel Silverstein); Cash's spooky cover of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man or the macabre Cocaine Blues

B. Michael Jackson

Don't Play:

The Big Three from Thriller (Billie Jean, Beat It and the title cut just in case you've been living under a rock for the last 30 years or so)

We know, we get it. Thriller is an amazing, amazing record. No one is denying this fact. It's sold 110 million copies worldwide. It features the greatest bass line in pop/rock music history. It made the music video a viable art form. It features an absolutely blistering Eddie Van Halen guitar solo on Beat It, and made hard rock and virtuoso guitarists mainstream in the process.

You know how we know all that?

Because those three songs have been on an endless loop in every bar in America since about 1983. Seriously, people do realize that Michael Jackson had other songs and other albums besides Thriller, right?

Play instead:

Bad (a sneaky fun song to sing along to), Dirty Diana (another one of Jackson's hard rock songs, this time featuring Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame) or the wildly underrated Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough


Don't Play:

You Shook Me All Night Long, Back In Black or Highway To Hell

Critics of AC/DC will tell you that everyone of their songs sound alike. This is not an unfair critique and one that even the band's lead guitarist and founder Angus Young has acknowledged in an oh-so tongue-in-cheek kinda way.

"I'm sick to death of people saying we've made 11 albums that sounds exactly the same," Young once said. "In fact, we've made 12 albums that sound exactly the same."

So if Angus Young has acknowledged that all of their songs sound the same, why not pick something different from AC/DC? Who knows, maybe no one will notice the difference?

Play Instead:

Shot Down In Flames (a perfect ode to men getting stood up in bars by the ladies); The Jack (a sleazy blues number about STDs) or the ridiculously silly Hard As A Rock

D. Guns N' Roses

Don't Play:

The Big Three off of Appetite For Destruction (And for you cave dwellers that missed out on Thriller, that would be Welcome To The Jungle, Sweet Child O' Mine and Paradise City).

To be fair, Appetite is my all-time favorite album. That said, these songs have practically lived in a bar since they were all conceived in the mid-eighties. It's time to give these ubiquitous three a rest, and consider that GN'R actually has three songs in their catalog that are worthy of a great bar debate.

Play Instead:

You Could Be Mine (Featured in Terminator 2. Was T2 the greatest action movie of all-time? If not, what else is in the discussion?); Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Given that Guns covered everyone from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan to the Skyliners weren't they really just the greatest cover band of all-time?); Rocket Queen (A Day In the Life by the Beatles is the greatest song to close an album. This is not debatable. But is Rocket Queen the second greatest song to close out an album? Discuss.)

E. Journey

Don't Play:

Don't Stop Believin', Open Arms or Separate Ways

Journey is experiencing a renaissance of late thanks in part to pop culture references in The Sopranos and Family Guy, but really more because a whole lot of people have come to realize what everyone in the late 70s and early 80s already knew. Steve Perry had a soaring and delicate voice that hit octaves not yet explored, and Neal Schon was a hard-rocking shredhead that could swing with every great guitarist of his era, including Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page.

That said, these three songs are the ones that get all the jukebox play. Don't Stop Believin' because of its pop culture meme status, Open Arms because it just renders the heart strings, and Separate Ways mainly because no one can help but sing along and think of what might be the worst video in history (they were not the most handsome men ever, as evidenced by the picture above). Therefore it's time to explore some of Journey's other material just to liven things up a bit in the bar.

Play Instead:

Wheel In The Sky (a gritty road trip anthem); Stone In Love and the catchy but completely bombastic Anyway You Want It (again, Journey had a knack for incredibly horrible videos).

4. Speaking of Guns N' Roses and Journey, we need to address karaoke for a moment. Almost every night in America, some jackass gets on stage about three sheets to the wind and goes all William Hung on either Sweet Child O' Mine or Don't Stop Believin'. Sometimes both in the same night.

Unacceptable. Unless you're name is Axl Rose or Steve Perry, you probably aren't going to hit the high notes of the aforementioned and respective songs. No one wants to hear you wail desperately off-key while doing the Axl Shuffle or imitating Steve Perry's bare-chested theatrics. Just stop. It's terrible and no one thinks you're cool while you're openly butchering American classics.

Not to go totally President Obama on you, but let me be clear. Unless you actually can sing, under no circumstances should you EVER get on a karaoke stage, especially after you've had more than two drinks. Back even three years ago, getting loaded and ruining people's favorite songs was nothing more than a laughable night out, and one that everyone would give you crap about for many years to come. Nowadays because of smart phones that allow people to film your idiocy and post it directly to YouTube, the whole world can see you in your full, drunken jackass glory.

Yes, the whole world can potentially see you make a viral fool of yourself. Including your boss and HR director. Is it really worth it to potentially jeopardize your job and your reputation all so you can have drunken karaoke glory? All so you can probably sound like this?

Just step away from the stage, put the mic down and leave the singing to the professionals. It's for the best.

On Drinking Itself

5. This one is for the guys exclusively.

Gentlemen, by now I'm sure you've seen Sex And The City, voluntarily or otherwise. Because of, or in spite of Horse Face and her three friends, all red drinks are now a feminine domain. No matter how much you love Cape Cods, you must put it away now. That goes for any drink that might involve grenadine too. It looks decidedly unmanly. And if you order a grenadine or cranberry-based martini drink, prepare to not get laid for awhile.

The only possible exception to this rule? Ordering a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans. And no, the Pat O'Brien's in San Antonio and Orlando don't count.

That said, however, there's no good reason for you not to know how to make a few red cocktails for your special lady.

The following three martini drinks are specialty cocktails that ever man should know how to make. Bartending school isn't required. Only a little bit of charm, a fair amount of booze and an amply supply of mixers. All the listed drinks below should shaken, strained and served straight in a martini glass.

A. Cosmopolitan

1 oz vodka
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz lime
1/2 oz cranberry

Garnished with a lemon peel

B. French Martini

1.5 oz flavored vodka
1 oz Chambord (raspberry liquor)
1.5 oz pineapple juice

Garnished with a cocktail sword of either blackberries or raspberries

C. Gin N' Sin

1.5 oz gin
1 oz orange juice
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine

Garnished with a lemon peel

6. Unless a lady offers to buy, quit doing shots. You aren't in college anymore. If that lady does offer to buy you a shot, the only acceptable answers are mid-grade American whiskeys (Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, etc.) and Jagermeister.

And whatever you do, for the love of God, do not order a shot of Patron. First of all, it's not that good of a tequila. Secondly, only angry douche bags wearing Ed Hardy gear with a penchant for violence order Patron.

7. When walking into a brewpub or an establishment with 40+ beers on tap, don't order Bud Light or some other cheap American swill. Ordering Bud Light at a great beer joint is like walking into Ben and Jerry's Home of Orgasmic Ice Cream Utopia and ordering a scoop of vanilla. You look like an uncultured rube.

Expand your horizons. Even if you're not a sophisticated beer drinker, any beer joint worth its salt will probably have one of the following three instant conversation starters in bottle or tap.

A. Flying Dog

Flying Dog recently relocated to Frederick, MD by way of the snowy climes of Aspen, CO. Their pale ales have won multiple awards at the Great American Beer Festival, but that's not really what they are most famous for. Their beer labels are designed by Hunter S. Thompson's long-time illustrator, Ralph Steadman. The significance of this is that in 1970 Thompson ran for the office of sheriff of Aspen on the Freak Power ticket. Although he didn't win, he did garner 44 percent of the county vote, and his election bid was well chronicled in Thompson's Rolling Stone column, The Battle of Aspen. Steadman's continued work with Flying Dog is a tribute to the brewery's roots and to Aspen's most famous, and perhaps strangest, resident.

Literary buffs and beer enthusiasts alike will celebrate this well-hopped Gonzo selection on your part.

B. Chimay

Inside the Scourmont Abbey in the small Belgian town of Chimay, you'll find Trappist monks living life by a basic code of prayer, reading and manual labor. Nothing shocking about that. Well, nothing shocking until you find out that their "manual labor" generates over $50 million in sales per year.

The Trappist monks have been brewing their own beer inside Scourmont Abbey since 1862. All proceeds go to various charities and to support the Trappist monks local community.

So if someone walks up to when you're enjoying a Chimay, let them know that you're drinking for a good cause. And here's the best part: You won't be lying.

C. Roswell Alien Amber

This is the flagship beer of the Sierra Blanca Brewing Company based out of Moriarty, NM, about 30 miles east of Albuquerque. It's a straight-forward amber ale, and for those who don't enjoy heavily-hopped beers, this is a true winner here.

That said, you're probably not drinking it because you're a huge fan of amber ales. Nope, you're drinking it because there's a bright green alien on the bottle. No doubt some will be put off by the cartoon character label, but for those that aren't, it's a mysterious and tasty beer that one way or the other will invoke conversation and controversy.

Just like Roswell itself.

8. Dos Equis is a solid German-style lager. Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. But just because The Most Interesting Man In The World enjoys it, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the most intriguing Mexican beer around.

For a little bit of variety, try Pacifico or Negro Modelo. If you are a man, do not order Corona lest your man card will be revoked. That's almost as bad as ordering a Cosmopolitan in public.

9. Americans have a tendency to believe that foreign beers are superior to American beers simply because they are foreign. This is a critical mistake, and Americans routinely overpay for mediocre to downright horrible beers under the pretense that they're really good. In fact, there are three well-known foreign beers that Americans order all the time, and they just aren't worth the money.

A. Red Stripe

The commercials were pretty funny, I'll grant you that.

In 2001, Jamaican-brewed Red Stripe launched their "Hooray Beer!" campaign. I was in college at the time, and soon everyone was saying "Hooray Beer!" at every party. Eventually, people started to bring in Red Stripe and while it wasn't bad, it tasted like virtually every other mass-produced American beer. In other words, it wasn't worth the $7 we paid. Everyone went back to buying Bud and Miller products for about $2-3 less.

And we still had beer. Hooray beer!

B. Beck's

Beck's seems like a good idea about once every other year. It seems like it should be good. It's German, after all, but it's definitely not mainstream. It's the beer less traveled, if you will. And then you order it and you come to realize why you only order it or buy it once every other year. Beck's is nothing more than the German Rolling Rock. You can't say that it's bad, but it ain't great either. In fact, it doesn't taste like much of anything at all. Just like Rolling Rock.

So if you don't want your beer to taste like much of anything, why pay the extra $3 more per six-pack to get Beck's when you can simply purchase Latrobe, PA's finest product?

C. Heineken

If you're somebody who truly enjoys Heineken, I have a way of saving you some money on your beer drinking budget.

First, gather up your armpit sweat. Add yeast and hops to it. Bottle it. Drink it.


10. Unless you are truly knowledgeable on wine and you grew up with it, never spend more than $40 on a bottle of wine. It's unlikely that you will know the difference between a $49.99 bottle and a $29.99 bottle. Besides, countries like Spain and Chile are producing high-quality wines at about half the cost of Napa. Los Vascos chardonnay from Chile can swing with just about any Napa-based chardonnay, and it's only about $10. It's a great deal for those who want to know more about wine, but are limited due to budget constraints.

11. Once a man reaches 30 years old, a regular drink lineup should be well established. A man's drinking staple should now consist of the following exclusively:

A. Beer
B. Wine
C. Whiskeys on the rocks or neat. This includes all American whiskeys, scotch and Irish whiskeys such as Jameson's and Tullamore Dew. There should be no need for soft drinks any longer.
D. Vodka with tonic or club soda
E. Gin N' Tonic

Outliers like rum, Southern Comfort and margaritas should make infrequent appearances.

And on that note, drink up a round to the best, may we never get less. And here's to a round for the worst.

May they die of thirst.