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McNabb: A Cinderella Story

My last post (which was roughly 47 weeks ago) referenced Donovan McNabb and Cinderella in a lazy attempt to besmirch AJ Feeley’s name, while also foreshadowing how we Philadelphians will feel when McNabb is chucking 50 yard bombs to a speedy receiver like Bernard Berrian in an offense that better utilizes Donovan’s skills than the current one in which Five operates. If this scenario takes place, and Kevin Kolb is undergoing the expected growing pains of a young QB, we will all respond by kicking inanimate objects, punching holes in dry wall and whipping our remotes across the room with speeds approaching Jamie Moyer’s fastball. Yes, we will not know what we had until it is gone.

I still believe this is true. But while watching McNabb play the last two Sundays–seeing him hesitate on his reads, hang onto the ball like it was stapled to his palm and fire missiles 5 yards from his receiver–it made me realize a sad, profound truth:

Donovan McNabb is Cinderella.

The band, that is.


Yes, the internet is littered with people comparing sports stars to pop culture figures, but hear me out. Part of this realization began when I searched for the YouTube video of “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” and saw an astonishing stat: the video has 312,461 views. I find it hard to fathom that nearly a third of a million Earthlings have felt the need to watch this video since July 26 of Ought-Six. For one, the song is nearly 20 years old. Secondly, and more importantly, the song is god awful fucking terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some 80s metal, but this song is Ziploc bag full of donkey shit. It’s a formulaic power ballad with a lead singer who sounds constipated, wailing about some Delaware Ave hussy who probably banged White Lion’s drummer. Any of the 6 people who read this blog and clicked on the link and suffered through that song should probably box my ears the next time they see me.

Anyway, this song represents one of the games like McNabb had last Sunday against the Giants: plodding, irritating, lacking judgment and generally painful to experience. You almost wonder how McNabb, and Cinderella, were ever successful. But then you look at the numbers.

Believe it or not, Cinderella sold 18 million records worldwide. After being plucked from obscurity by famed Arena Football League owner Jon Bon Jovi, they toured with pretty much every great 80s metal act: Ozzy, the Crue, Skid Row and Diamond David Lee Roth. Sweet lord, look at those names. Their are probably 90 platinum records and nearly as many STDs among those lineups. Sold out shows, copious amounts of Aquanet, Marshall stacks and stacked chicks–Tom Kiefer and the boys from Philadelphia had them all. Indeed, Cinderella saw a million faces, and they rocked them all (or a reasonably high rate of them were sufficiently rocked, I’m sure).

Donovan McNabb has also put up impressive numbers. Five Pro Bowls, four NFC Championship games, 191 career TDs (passing and rushing combined), the list goes on. Early in his career, he was the only offensive playmaker on teams with receivers like Charles Johnson, James Thrash, Charles Nelson Reilly, Fantasia Freddy Mitchell, Dudley “Booger” Dawson, Torrence Small, Rad Chad Lewis and Jamie Supirian.

yeah, Donny Mac threw to the whiny bitch-titted kid from Small Wonder.

Anyway, McNabb was able to seemingly single-handedly win games early in his career and made believers out of us all. We scooped up his jersey from Forman Mills; we knew he’d lead us There. Similarly, Cinderella rose through the metal ranks up from the dregs of the Philadelphia metal scene (note: I was like 8 years-old when this happened so I have no idea if the Philly metal scene sucked. I’m just assuming it did). Cinderella was discovered by JBJ and gave us Philadelphians hope that we would have our Crue. If there is a timeline, the album Night Songs was similar to McNabb’s first few trips to the playoffs: fun experiences and great hope for the future.

Both Cinderella and McNabb settled into a period of sustained success–the band with Long Cold Winter, D-Mac with the trips to the NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance. But here’s where we come back to “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”, that aforementioned shit stain of a song. DKWYG(TIG) was like McNabb’s feud with Terrell Owens: there’s a lot of whining involved, and the mere mention of it makes me want to impale myself with gardening shears.

Things went downhill fast for Cinderella after DKWYOG(TIG), with the release of the misguided Heartbreak Station and the departure of drummer Fred Coury. And just like the perpetually injured McNabb, vocalist Tom Keifer completely lost his voice because of something called paresis of the vocal cord, which sounds as fake as a sports hernia. With injuries, declining skills and a shifting audience, Cinderella’s downward spiral was complete (sound familiar?). Shortly thereafter, the band got steamrolled by moody singers from rain-soaked Pacific Northwest metropolitan areas.

While his career is far from over, if McNabb retired today, he would be the Cinderella of his quarterbacking peers. Close to great, an impressive resume, but ultimately just very good–they never had That Moment. Will he make it to the all-time great level? There’s a slight chance, but it is almost certain to not be in a Eagles uniform. And if that happens, WWKNWWH(TIWG).

As an aside, there are a ton of other QB/metal star corollaries, if you give it a little thought. Favre is probably Ozzy (had tons of fun, reckless, drug problem, late career surge), Brady is probably Poison (intense love of wearing makeup) and Eli Manning would probably be the Nelson (got by on his last name, possibly a woman). Perhaps we’ll figure them all out in another blog post.

Which you can expect sometime in June.

See, Cinderella Gets It.

We Philadelphians tend to spit out our star athletes in bite size chunks. Iverson, Barkley, Abreu, Rolen, Lindros, Schmidt, etcetera, have all felt our wrath. They’ve all been the browning lawn opposite the green grass we see on the other side. And while watching AJ Feeley throw Aflac ducks into the chests of Seattle Seahawks all afternoon long yesterday, it made me think that perhaps in Philadelphia, we should listen to one of our region’s greatest musical acts, Cinderella, as they dispense advice through overwrought singing and clichéd lyrics. Yes, Donovan, perhaps we should appreciate you while we’re here.

My brain is pulsating from a hangover. I’ve consumed 96,000 calories since Thursay and am sweating gravy. And in seven or so hours, I get to watch Bill Belichick strangle kittens and tell children that the Easter Bunny isn’t real.


I have been busier than a beaver’s beaver the last few weeks at work, so I haven’t been updating this shitheap of a blog. My day job is writing, and when things get batshit crazy at work (as they have recently), I don’t quite have the time and energy to write here. Anyway, I will return soon and let you know my thoughts about things like how the Flyers’ Mike Richards could currently fingersaw any woman within 1/2 mile of Bustleton Ave, why it’s time for Joe to go at PSU, how the Phillies win in spite of themselves, and other subjects that will feature poorly thought-out analysis and low-grade swearing. Till then.

My wife is expanding nightly with a child somewhere in her stomach, and I, as a good father-to-be, am supposed to pork up as well. This is what hefty fathers tell me, at least. Heretofore in my life, I had admirably met the challenge of gaining girth during the one time it was presented to me. In other words, I returned from college fat and bloated from cans of beer. However, for whatever reason, I was not meeting the obligation of gaining weight with my pregnant wife.

Apparently, I just didn’t have enough house guests.

The middle of October in 2007 was filled with out-of-town visitors from California, London, Massachusetts and even Havertown. As the majority of these visitors had some degree of Irish heritage, that meant drinking. And eating. And talking about drinking and eating.

And I will now share the highlights of the venues in which we ate and drank, and leave out details like drunken uncles playing Nintendo Wii in my living room in between shots of Jameson at 1 AM. Har har.

Because we had a wide range of guests, we mostly took them to our tried-and-true haunts. These are the places where a good meal is nearly guaranteed, the price is right, and good times will be had by all. But to mix things up, we also had a night at a white-hot, crowded newish restaurant (Tinto) and one massive splurge (Barclay Prime) because it was a group that rarely sees one another and wanted to blow it out for a night. Without further ado, here are the impressions that I waddled away with:

meat, stick, shot glass, sauce, bliss.

Tinto: Everyone in the world loves this place, and I now know why. Small plates are like the skinny jeans of the restaurant world, but I think this cooking trend works far more successfully than that damned fashion one. For one, you get to sample a lot more of the chef’s cooking. In the other, you’re exposed to some second-rate hipster’s chicken legs and/or ballsac. But I digress. Tinto’s Basque menu is loaded with tons of temptations (around 50 small plates), and nearly everything we had was stellar. Among the standouts was a Clam Rice dish with shaved artichoke, a great cheese plate and an obscenely decadent dish of Kobe beef and truffle poached egg. The only thing I regretted was that we didn’t order enough of their skewers, which are perched in shot glasses filled with sauce. Take that in for a moment. It’s three great things (meat on a stick, shot glasses, sauce) all on one plate. Service was great, and they have a totally interesting menu design. As someone in the advertising/design industry, I tip my hat to their menu designer. Good show, Mac Monkey!

Barclay Prime: Everything here is big. The steaks, the wine, the sides, the bill. Especially the bill. Not much needs to be said about this popular place, but I ate probably the best steak of my life (a dry-aged porterhouse) and downed a lot of great wine. The standout side dish was the Lyonnaisse potatoes and the Kobe slider appetizers were a crowd favorite. Our server was friendly and attentive, but her penchant for up-selling grew a bit old. This place is pretty amazing and I had a blast with my rollicking Irish family here. The neighboring table’s opinion may differ.

La Viola: After a night at a place as big, over-the-top and expensive as Barclay, we took my Dad and stepmother to a place that was as conversely small, intimate and cheap: La Viola. This walk-in closet-sized Italian restaurant is a favorite of my wife and I, and we wanted to show our California guests what a Philly Italian BYOB is all about: good food, cramped quarters, low prices and unintelligible Italian waiters. We had it all at La Viola. I tend to experiment on entrées there, but I always find myself ordering their grilled calamari as an app. It’s laced with lemon and capers and is super tender, but has a great grilled flavor. Apropos of nothing, I ended up getting accidentally rocked off my ass at this dinner. Thanks for bringing the boss bottles of wine, Dad!

North Third: We’re into group two of house guests: my mom and sister-in-law, who was visiting from across the pond, which is how irritating people refer to London. Anyway, the first night she arrived, it was a torrential downpour, and my wife and I think of N. 3rd as our rainy day restaurant. This gastro-pub is built for damp weather–it’s dark, homey and the food is hearty and awesome. The soups here are top-notch, but big enough to be a meal by themselves. So I opted to simply order a special I had loved there one time before : an Asian-spiced tuna burger. To be honest, this sounds like something that I would hate: fish masquerading as a burger. However, it has tons of flavor, as wasabi and cilantro brighten the sandwich, which feels like you’re devouring a gigantic spicy tuna roll. This is a good thing, I reckon. My sister-in-law ordered the wings, which I think are among the best in town. If you’ve never been to this place, well, you’re probably a dork. And if some idiot with a blog is calling you a dork, that makes you like a dork of the highest order. Let’s move on.

Lolita: This is a great place to take out-of-towners. The food’s flavorful and exciting, the bring-your-own-tequila gimmick is unique, and the vibe is pretty raucous for a BYOB (mostly because everyone is ripped to the nipples on margaritas). I love the food here. It’s got all the flavor and spice of Mexican food, but with refined cooking techniques and fresh ingredients that steer the dishes clear of the heavy, leaden, rice-filled dishes of too many Mexican eateries. I had an entrée of veal cheeks with shaved Brussels sprouts that was the most memorable dish of my entire 9 day binge. The meat melted in my mouth, and the flavors were spot on. Just a great dish. And a fitting end to a wonderful 9 days of food, drink and family, where I was thankfully able to spend time with great people from all over the world, who could see my beautiful wife and the child that is amazingly growing inside of her every day, and share in this miraculous time of our lives. It all makes me say to myself:

Savor it while you can, fat boy.

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Like most God fearing Americans, I like my fat people to be jolly and simple. Think Santa. Vern Tessio from Stand By Me. That obese dancing feedbag with a boom box from the WMMR commercials in the late 80s.

Andy Reid, while plenty plump, however, is seemingly joyless and endlessly complex. Which is not to say I don’t like him. It is to say that I just don’t get him.

The man is a study in contradictions. He’s notoriously stubborn, yet his teams always perform better as the season progresses, suggesting that he makes adjustments. He absolutely worships the pass, yet he’s a former offensive lineman, a position that typically loves the run game, since it means aggressive blocking instead of the defensive stance of pass blocking. He takes every bit of blame for his team’s in-game failures, suggesting player loyalty, but will quickly cut ties with a player he feels is even slightly past their prime (Troy Vincent, Hugh Douglas, Duce Staley, etc.). He’s a devout Mormon, but his kid’s lives are an After School Special that not even Meredith Baxter Birney could fix (it’s also a topic I don’t think should be covered by the media any more).

He’s been the team’s most successful coach ever, but it always feels like he could be better.

Well, that last one might be because we’re Philadelphia fans. But regardless, even Andy’s fans–of which I am one–go through stretches of intense doubt of his abilities. Yes, we point to the 4 NFC Championship games, the near Super Bowl win and the nearly annual playoff appearances. But there’s a lingering sense that his game planning is often suspect, his clock management is sub-moronic and he undervalues key positions, such as wide receiver and linebacker.

Indeed, the man is an enigma wrapped in a cruller.

As the Birds now sit at 3-4 (though two plays from 5-2), the region is calling for his head. But let’s remember that the guy typically does his best coaching when his back is to the wall. After McNabb’s first injury, when a completely inexperienced AJ Feeley took them to the playoffs. When they started 0-2 and looked positively atrocious the year after the Tampa Bay NFC Championship Game (on a side note, isn’t it funny how you delineate years in the early 2000s by NFC Championship Game losses?). Then again last year, when McNabb went down and Mr. Carmella Decesare piloted us to some of our proudest moments in recent years.

The only time he failed to rally the team was the famed TO year, which was the perfect storm of clusterfuck-up-nessed that would have made Lombardi cry, Walsh weep, and Belichick’s cyborg circuits fry.

So shouldn’t we know by now not to call for Andy’s head? Shouldn’t we know that these are the exact moments of the season that we all block out when we look back on our 10+ win seasons? Doesn’t the most successful coach in the organization’s history deserve a bit of slack?

I say yes. But couldn’t the guy just make it easier on us? And by “easier on us” I mean “run the goddamned motherfucking ball every once in a while?”

This much is true:

If I sit down at a table and there are six glasses of wine sitting in front of me, I am almost certain to enjoy myself.

That’s the first thing you experience with Tria’s Fermentation School, and it is, quite frankly, a wonderful introduction. But the entire experience is not simply about pumping people full of wine, though that thankfully does happen; it’s about teaching the history, traditions and cultures of various wine regions. It’s all part of these classes put on by Tria, the wildly popular cafe at 18th & Sansom (and new location at 12th & Spruce), which focus on their three (all fermented) specialties: wine, cheese and beer.

I attended the “Taste of Tuscany” class because I generally know as much about Italian wines as I do about shoe polish, and figured that an Italian wine class would be far more entertaining than a shoe polish lecture. I have a decent grasp on California wines, and Australian wines as well, but the Italian wines confused me more than a David Lynch movie. On a recent Friday evening, I went to the class with my mom, since my wife now has a child growing daily in her stomach, and I would hate to waste quality wine on my unborn son or daughter’s unrefined palate.

I kid. I kid.

Walking into Tria’s Fermentation School is probably the only non-awesome thing about the experience. The classes don’t take place in a Tria restaurant, but rather the sixth floor of a fairly nondescript office building on Walnut Street. After signing in at the front desk, heading up an elevator and then wandering through a maze of hallways straight out of Being John Malkovich, you wind up in a tiny corner room, where a friendly face hands you a glass of white wine. This is reassuring.

You take your seat and see six glasses of wine, a bruschetta (ours was fig and blue cheese), a wedge of cheese (we had an awesome truffled pecorino), several pieces of bread, a biscotti and a glass of water. They had me at hello.

The class was roughly 25 people, and the room was a bit tightly packed, though tastefully decorated. The class began with an introduction by Michael McCaulley, sommelier and beverage director for Tria. Within a few minutes of the class beginning, it was easy to see how his personality translates to Tria. He clearly enjoyed his job, which–seeing as how he drinks all day–makes sense. But what makes him, and Tria, unique is that they make wine approachable. There was no pretense, no snobbery, none of the general dickheadednish that alienates rugged blokes like myself and has us reaching for ales at dinner parties. McCaulley seems like a guy who probably could talk about Super Tuscans as easily as he could about Larry Johnson’s tragic fantasy football tailspin.

On top of that, he knows his stuff. With a slide show guiding him, he walked us through the history and sub-regions of Tuscany, as well as the rankings, ratings and laws of Italian wine (I learned that, as a quick rule, I should buy wines marked DCOG on them). After a detailed set up, we began tasting. Our first glass was a Carmignano “Barco Reale,” Capezzana, ’04, which was a great, earthy start. We began the whole swirl, smell, taste ritual. As we progressed through several glasses, the class, not surprisingly, became bolder in describing smells and tastes. A girl behind me, who was knocking back glasses at an unwise pace, yelled out that her glass of Brunello smelled like pineapples. Then a guy who described a wine as smelling like Budweiser knocked over two of his glasses. This, apparently, is the height of wine humor.

I would describe some of the wines in more detail, but my notes become slightly less legible towards the bottom of the page. But I was able to take down some really helpful advice for my next time in the liquor store, such as “only buy Chianti that is labeled Chianti Classico” and “1999, ’01 and ’04 are years to buy,” as well as a less useful “I wonder if Italian men ignore mustached women or if they are simply too drunk to no [sic].”

The entire experience was truly one of the best experiences I’ve had at a Philadelphia dining establishment. They didn’t skimp on wine, as one of the bottles we tasted retails for around $50 (it was the Le Serre Nuove Tenuta Dell’ornellaia, 04). They made things fun. They taught me something. They got my mom bombed.

The classes sell out very quickly, so I’m clearly not the first person to find them. But there are enough interesting topics to keep me coming back. I am, after all, a lowly drunk at heart.