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Lions, Clowns and Friars

I am a die-hard Detroit Lions fan.

Actually, that’s not true. I have been a fan of the Lions since August when I finished reading George Plimpton’s Paper Lion (Lyons Press, 1966). I have never been a big football fan. I didn’t play in high school and I never really caught the football fanaticism in college. Fantasy football seems equally complicated and nerdy. I guess I would be a bigger fan if there was a sports book in town but considering how things are going with the congressional redistricting I don’t think Herbert and company will be letting us lay parley cards in the near future. I decided after 37 years, I was going to follow the NFL religiously and to do that, I would need a team. In considering my options, I realize that I was going to be limited at best with what team to support. I immediately discarded the Denver because there is a metric-ton of Bronco fans in Utah. You can’t throw a rock in town without hitting somebody in an orange and blue jersey. I am certain Bronco fans in Colorado are decent, tax-paying citizens with families that love them: here in Utah, they seem a little meth-y, under-educated and dirty. Imagine raccoons with Kyle Orton jerseys on. After that soul-searching, I settled on Detroit on the strength of Plimpton’s book. In addition, I liked how Axel Foley looked in a Lion’s letterman jacket, the fact that my father was born in Detroit and I wanted something in common with Kid Rock and Eminem.

Imagine my shock when I came home on Sunday to find out that my beloved Lions took their first loss of the season against the 49ers. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. Actually, to say that would just be factually incorrect. I haven’t watched a game all year. I was flying back to SLC on Sunday from a homecoming weekend in Reno and didn’t even look at the scores until Monday. I am sure Detroit will circle the wagons and beat the snot out of Atlanta next week but I probably won’t be watching. Not having time, interest or cable will make it hard to be a die-hard Detroit Lions fan.

I did get to see a football game this last weekend at homecoming. I went back to my alma mater to watch the student athletes of the University of Nevada beat New Mexico State like a redheaded stepchild (49-7). An aside: does the DCFS have any statistics on the amount of child abuse amongst redheaded stepchildren? I was going to compare UNR beating of the Lobos to a rented mule but I don’t know where to get a rented mule. Do they even rent mules anymore? As a public service, if you have a redheaded stepchild, stop beating the kid. Nonetheless, going back to Mackay Stadium and watching the festivities was fantastic. I graduated from Nevada in 1996 and haven’t really been back in 15 years. It’s funny how some of your memories get altered with time. Reno remained as dumpy as ever but UNR looked amazing. They built a dozen new buildings and the campus would give even the U of U a run for its money. When I went to school there, I honestly thought I was attending a cow college on the strength of its agriculture and mining departments. It didn’t help that Downtown Reno was two blocks from the student union and the Circus Circus clown loomed over the quad. I loved every minute of my college experience but the amenities were thin when I went to school there. In walking around campus, I couldn’t help but think the value of my degree skyrocketed.

Speaking of Circus Circus, is there a more disturbing themed casino in the world? Fear of clown is called coulrophobia (Coulro- is derived from Greek for ‘stilt-walker’). Fortunately, I don’t have a fear of clowns but I do have a fear of bed bugs and salmonella and my hotel room was chockfull of both. If I ran a hunter’s light over the bed spread I slept on it would have made a German bukkake film set look a NASA clean room. There was a mistake in the room reservation, so I was left with a smoking room in an antiquated hotel. If there anything worse than spending 48 hours on the 22nd floor of a dangerously filthy Reno hotel room where multiple Denver Bronco fans were conceived? I could have seen past all of the dried human dander and fluid in the room if I could have simply cracked the window. Unfortunately, at 22 floors above Downtown Reno, there was no way Circus Circus management would risk littering Virginia Avenue with coulrophobic hotel guests. Every piece of art in the building had a dusting of John Wayne Gacy. Apparently, the clown theme works. The hotel was booked to capacity and the carnival midway was packed with runty kids trying to win cheap Chinese made stuffed animals.

The upside to being at Circus Circus was they had a sports book and I was able to check the lines for the World Series. I am not particularly excited about this year’s series. Unlike football which I could take or leave, I love baseball. For my entire life, I have been a San Diego Padres fan. I love the Pads! If I could have three wishes, I would wish for a never-ending hoagie sandwich, a catch with Tony Gwynn and a lunch date with Tony Gwynn to eat said sandwich. Chances are Tony would wish for my third wish too. When Gwynn went to the Hall of Fame, my girlfriend never saw a picture of Tony. I talked about him incessantly my entire life, so when she saw him for the first time she commented two things: “Oh, he’s black and he’s fat.” Thanks, Hon. I like the fact that the greatest contact hitter since Ty Cobb looked like he just polished off a plate of carne asada. It gave me confidence as a fat kid growing up in Las Vegas that one day if I ate not just my vitamins but everything else in sight that I could retire with a career batting average of .338, 3,141 hits and be a first ballot hall of famer. With Indiana Jones, Tony Gwynn has been my boyhood hero and it was awesome growing up with a team where I knew number 19 would be out in right field and batting second.

The real love of the Padres came from my Grandpa Tom. Tom Devlin was a lifetime baseball fan that passed his love of the game to me. He had season tickets to the Padres, first at Jack Murphy Stadium (it was never Qualcomm to me) and then at Petco Park. His seats were four rows above the visitor’s dugout along the third-base side. There was no better place to watch a game. From our vantage point, you got to see the mechanics of the pitcher deliver the ball to the plate. You could see, hear and smell everything. My grandfather was very generous with taking me to games and letting me talk throughout the entire time. He was always good for a Coke and a hot dog at every game. As memories go, getting to sit next to your grandfather at a professional baseball for almost 30 years ranks pretty high. We rarely made it through an entire game.  I’ll never forget as a kid leaving during the eighth inning to beat the traffic and drive back to El Cajon. Sitting in the front seat of his truck, I relished listening to the game being called as the dashboard lights illuminated his face as Grandpa slightly smiled or frowned depending on how the Padres were doing.

With that said, this year’s World Series stars the Texas Rangers against the St. Louis Cardinals. I think the majority of America (outside of those in Texas and Missouri) were rooting for a Brewers/Tigers series and I am no exception. The Cardinals have had San Diego’s number for years and who likes Texas? How can any Democrat root for the Rangers considering that George W. used to be an owner? I am not looking forward to looking at Bush’s dumb mug for every Texas home game as he clumsily throws peanuts into his mouth. God help us if he gets to throw out a first pitch. The problem is that I like Texas’ manager, Ron Washington. African Americans are painfully underrepresented in head coaching positions in all sports. Wash’s skin color has nothing to do with the success he has had in managing back-to-back American League Champions. The guy is a real talent and true gentleman. While at Oakland in the 2000s, he was instrumental in making Billy Beane’s Moneyball work in coaching Scott Haddeberg to play first base. Remember how much I love the Padres? I have a soft-spot for the A’s—Grandpa Tom played for Connie Mack’s AAA team before WWII. I think Wash is an aggressive manager and that makes for good baseball. The problem is that he works for Texas and I can’t support a league that doesn’t make the pitcher swing a bat. Thank God the NL won the All-Star game or we would be watching designated hitters factoring excessively into the series. The Cardinals are managed by Tony La Russa and he is a salty SOB. He looks like Pete Rose on a bad day and knows how to win. I got to meet La Russa at a baseball card convention once. My take-away from meeting him was that he smelt like Aqua Velvet and anger. If I played for him, I would be terrified of him renting a mule to take his anger out on me.

Nonetheless, I don’t think the Cardinals pitching staff have what it takes to beat the Rangers. I am picking Texas in six.

I’ll be bartending my first shift tonight since getting back from Reno. I did work last night but I didn’t get behind the bar. I managed the club for last night’s karaoke show because my friend and co-worker, Brandon Isenhour and his partner, Jennifer, had a baby yesterday. Jackson Keys Isenhour was born at 6:33am weighing in at seven pounds and six ounces. Mother and son are doing great. It’s funny getting to that age when your friends are or becoming parents. Brandon already has had practice with his son, Dalton, and if he and Jennifer raise Jackson half as well as Dalton, they are certain to have a wonderful son. I am assuming the middle name has a connection to Brandon and Jennifer meeting at Keys On Main. I think it will be a fitting reminder of when they met and the beginning of their family. It’s a good thing they didn’t meet at a Burger King, however, Jackson’s middle name could have been Whopper.

Working the door last night, I marvel how door guys can do their job. It takes real discipline to not open-hand slap every third person coming through the door. The night started with a real curious experience. A couple came in with their infant son in one of those three-wheeled strollers. I told them very apologetically that I can’t let the baby in. They threw their hands into air with a dramatic flair reserved only for stage actors or karaoke enthusiasts. The husband started this Walter Sobchak routine of it’s not like I am going to let the baby sing karaoke or he was going to buy the baby a beer. He just wanted to come in and sing with his family. I appreciated his situation but I was bond by law not to let somebody without ID into the club. It’s not just the law but it’s bad for business to prop an infant on the bar while Mom and Dad do a duet of “Summer Loving.” I would imagine rearing a kid could drive anyone to drink but next time, hire a babysitter. If I had a kid, I would hate for one of his or her first memories to be Papa belting out “Don’t Stop Believin’” with a Miller Lite in his hand.

Last thought: Utah is redistricting the congressional seats in an insidious fashion. With the 2010 census, we picked up an additional seat and the state legislature is gerrymandering the state to guarantee being a Democrat is tantamount to a mermaid or unicorn. I get that to the victors go the spoils but how the legislature pulled some honest-to-God eleventh hour vote is ridiculous. You know why it smells fishy how they voted along party lines around midnight on Monday? Because it smells like a week-old fish hidden under a passenger seat! It reminds me of the guy who doesn’t smoke in front of his wife because she’ll be mad he is smoking again. It’s not against the law for him to smoke but the fact that he goes and hides behind the garage to puff a butt makes it seem wrong. Utah Republicans have to know what they are doing is ethically wrong because they are passing this law behind the garage. The fact that we couldn’t have a week of debate for citizens to raise concerns with how the state is being divided isn’t against the law but it definitely suggests that they are terrified of getting caught smoking again. Contact Governor Herbert and tell him to veto this law. Utah will always be a red state but it doesn’t have to be a bully. A little more open government never hurt anyone except those afraid to look their fellow citizens in the eye. I disagree with how the state is run but I have never been ashamed of it until last Monday. Republicans, be a man and light that Pall Mall in front of your wife. You’ll get your districts providing we get our two-bits in.

Go Lions!

Ben Raskin can be found bartending at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin or follow his Tumblr feed. Become a fan of Behind The Bar on Facebook. Any e-mailed questions can be sent to benj.raskin@gmail.com

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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