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Category Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

Why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like the Super Bowl

winerant
super bowl

Am I the only one who thinks this pairing looks silly?

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like the Super Bowl. This is not just because I was once a sportswriter and soon tired of sports’ hypocrisy, and especially the NFL’s obsession with money. And more money. And even more money.

Or that, living in Dallas, more people attend Cowboys games than usually vote in mayoral elections. Which always seems to annoy them when I bring it up.

Or that I get pathetic pitches from hard-up marketing and public relations types, desperate to turn the Super Bowl into a wine event. This week, someone wanted me to write about the Sea Hawks, which is an Errol Flynn movie and not a football team. The Super Bowl is a beer event. And a pizza event. But it’s as much about wine as St. Patrick’s Day is, and who ever heard of green-colored wine?

But mostly I don’t like the Super Bowl because no one reads the blog over Super Bowl weekend. I get more visitors on Christmas Day than I do during the Super Bowl, which shocked me the first time it happened and still makes me pause. What this says about the United States in the 21st century is something that I will leave to others more versed in the study of that sort of thing.

So enjoy the Super Bowl, and I’ll see you next week. I will spend Sunday messing around the house — maybe baking some bread, trying to get a few posts ahead on the blog, or working on my notes for my next wine class at El Centro. But I won’t watch the game, which I haven’t done since 1986. And somehow, my life has gone on.

Ernie Banks, 1931-2015

ernie banks

ernie banksNot that long ago, I was talking to a baseball fan who didn’t understand why New York Yankees fans were so cranky. “Their best player can make an error in the first inning, and they’ll start booing and won’t let up,” he said. “They take all of the fun out of the game.”

“That’s because Yankees fans are used to players like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter,” I told him. “When you’ve watched them, it’s hard to give anyone else the benefit of the doubt.”

I mention this on the death of perhaps the greatest Chicago Cubs player ever, Ernie Banks. The Cubs, for most of my lifetime, have not had players like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Jeter. They have had Joe Wallis and Carmen Fanzone and Dick Nen. But as long as the Cubs had Ernie, that always seemed to be enough.

Banks’ death is about more than baseball and being a Cubs’ fan, and it’s about more than the part he played for those of us who came of age with the Cubs in the 1960s. It’s about what baseball says about our lives; as George Carlin wrote: “Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.”

Banks was a Hall of Fame ballplayer, one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game. But what he will be remembered for, and what his New York Times obituary did not fail to mention, was the record he holds for most games played without ever making the playoffs, 2,528. It’s a most Cubs-like record, befitting the franchise’s reputation for futility.

But it reminds us that life is not about winning. We can’t all be the Yankees. Life is about getting up every morning and doing the best you can, because otherwise, what’s the point? It’s about understanding that you’re lucky enough to do something that you love, and that doing anything other than the best you can would be wrong. You can’t hit a home run every day, but you can try. And that’s enough.

Todd Hollandsworth, who played a couple of seasons for the Cubs at the beginning of the last decade (and yet another of those players who weren’t Babe Ruth) told the Chicago Sun-Times that Banks “taught me to let the game go and start over the next day. Each day was unto itself. `You can’t change yesterday,’ he told me. I don’t think I could fully understand what he was teaching me at the time. Still haven’t.”

There is no better epitaph than that.

Joe Maddon, expensive wine, and the Chicago Cubs

cubsslider

joe maddon wineDear Joe:

You and I have much in common — you’re the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, and I am a long-suffering Cubs fan who once waited more than an hour to get Kenny Holtzman’s autograph. In the finest Cubs tradition, Holtzman never showed up.

Apparently, we also share wine in common, though what you drink is about as far removed from what I drink as the Cubs are from a successful baseball team. You are, by all accounts, a wine geek of the first order, whose taste runs to Opus One, Insignia, and hot, heavy, oaky California pinot noirs. (Unfortunately, my request to ask you about wine apparently disappeared into the cyber-ether; I never heard back from the Cubs.)

Frankly, your preference for these kinds of wines worries me. This is the Cubs you’re managing, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908, and not the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had more players like Larry Biittner and Glen Hobbie than Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax, and Opus One is a lot more like Ruth than it is Biittner.

Besides, we’re more comfortable with players like Biittner, who was a mainstay on the woebegone Cubs teams of the late 1970s when I was in college and would sit in the right field bleachers and offer the players various words of encouragement. Who can forget the 1977 game when Biittner, an outfielder, pitched 1 1/3 innings and the Cubs lost 19-3 — and, in the finest Cubs tradition, was fined for throwing at a batter.

In this, the Cubs are more Bogle than Insignia, more cava than Champagne. And that’s a more practical approach anyway. What are you going to do after a tough late-night loss to the hated Brewers in Milwaukee when you want a glass of wine and you won’t be able to find a bottle of $50 Napa meritage? On the other hand, almost any Roundy’s supermarket that’s still open will have more than one wine from this year’s $10 Hall of Fame.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t mind sharing a bottle of white Burgundy with you, particularly if you do the impossible and help the Cubs win something after more than a century of losing. I’d even pay for it — a 2010 Corton from Sylvain Loichet, perhaps? That I’m willing to pay for it should tell you how long suffering a Cubs fan I am.

Until then, try the Little James Basket Press wines. I’m sure Binny’s has them, and will get them for you if they don’t.

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility,
The Wine Curmudgeon

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