Football, television and beer: Rambling thoughts on these three things

September 9, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 9, 2013

At the beginning of 2002, I moved out of my childhood home (at a rather advanced age — but never mind that) and into a small studio apartment on Broadway near Columbia University, where I was then pursuing graduate studies at the renowned journalism school. One of my grandmothers lived in Murray Hill, another Manhattan neighborhood, and I would typically visit her at least once a week.

We would sit and talk, and we would go out to eat for dinner, as I remember. But many afternoons, I would disappear into her bedroom for a few hours. That’s where grandma kept her television — a popular entertainment device (as you know) that I did not have in the cluttered studio where I lived.

Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with television. I find it entertaining and boring and seductive and frustrating. I frankly love to tell people that I live without a television.

Or, to be a bit more accurate, I loved telling people that I live without a television. I hate that at this point in the early 21st century living without a TV no longer marks me as a particularly distinctive individual.

The issue here, as with so many facets of modern American life, is the Internet. Thanks to YouTube and Hulu and Netflix, and probably other stuff that I’ve yet to encounter, one can live without a television and yet watch oodles of its programming on one’s computer. Much of this streaming content is relatively current. Some of it is made available, legally or not, as it is actually being broadcast. 

All of which is tangential to the story I was telling, which is that when I’d visit my grandmother, I’d often while away large chunks of the afternoon watching her TV. I love watching college and professional football, and I enjoyed flipping from game to game. I also enjoy college basketball, albeit less enthusiastically, so NCAA games offered a pleasant distraction for me.

When I got bored with the games, or during commercial interludes, I would exercise my thumb by seeking interesting movies or television on other channels. This was how I first watched (most of) the 2000 movie Pitch Black, an excellent science-fiction/horror genre outing that helped launch Vin Diesel’s movie career and that spawned two sequels. (The latest, titled simply Riddick, was just released last week.)

In late 2003, I accepted a job with a newspaper in a small town in North Carolina, and I began preparing to move. Not long after that, unfortunately, my grandmother had a bout of heart trouble that sent her into the hospital.

She was a 90-year-old widow, and she lived alone. For years, I had been the only relative who had been able to stop by her apartment regularly. My family decided that grandma couldn’t stay where she was. We persuaded her to move into my childhood home with her child (my parent).

With her kids and grandchildren, grandma went through her apartment, discarding unwanted possessions and splitting up furniture. About a third of the items went to my childhood home, where we recreated a miniature version of grandma’s bedroom in a spare bedroom. Another third went with me to my new apartment in North Carolina. The rest went to my uncle and cousin in the Midwest.

One of the things I got was my grandmother’s old TV, which would have been redundant in her new home. I held onto that television for quite a while. It only got plugged in for a few days in the summer of 2004 when family came to stay with me for a few days and needed a diversion.

I ended up hauling the TV along with me when I moved to Durham, North Carolina. But even though I never used it, it took me a few years before I ended up dragging it to my car and depositing it as a donation at a Goodwill store. All in all, I must have had the TV for around seven years.

All of which is … well, not tangential, but … background to the story I wanted to tell. It involves my time watching sports on TV Saturday night.

As all who know me well — and many who have barely met me, and also some who’ve never met me even once — are aware, I am a pretty passionate Stanford football fan. The Cardinal was the very last Football Bowl Subdivision team to kick off its 2013 season. It started play a little after 11 p.m. Eastern time against local rival San Jose State University.

The game was carried on the Pac-12 Channel, just like Stanford’s 2012 season-opening game against the San Jose State Spartans. A year ago, the Pac-12 Channel was very difficult to find in Durham, N.C., where I live. I ended up checking a number of different bars before I discovered that the station was available at James Joyce Pub in the city’s Brightleaf district.

The channel’s availability has expanded since then, because the Pac-12 conference (which owns the channel) has signed a number of additional distribution deals. Still, there’s at least one major carrier that doesn’t have a contract to air league programming.

On Saturday, I wasn’t going to mess around with venues that might not have the station. So I walked into James Joyce a little after 11 p.m. and asked for a TV to be changed to the Pac-12 Channel. It was then that I discovered that it wasn’t airing the game that I’d been waiting to see for weeks — at least, not right away.

Instead, the station was showing the end of the Oregon State-Hawaii football game. The contest, which held very little second-half drama, ended up running until nearly the end of the first quarter of the Stanford-SJSU game.

Fortunately, the Pac-12 Channel switched to the Stanford game as soon as the Oregon State Beavers wrapped up their win. By that point, I’d ordered a beer.

If the kitchen had been open — a rarity after 11 p.m. at most local places, even on a Saturday night — I would have ordered some food. Instead, when I finished my first beer, I ordered a second beer. And then when I finished that beer, I ordered a third beer.

I finished drinking that beverage shortly before 2 a.m., when the bar was closing up and the Stanford game was winding down. (And incidentally, the Cardinal finished its season opener with a 34-13 win over the Spartans.)

Unfortunately, I was in no condition to drive myself home thanks to all the alcohol I’d had over the last three hours. I sat down near my car and fiddled around with the Internet on my phone. Fifteen or 20 minutes passed, but I still did not feel comfortable driving.

I was also uninterested in waiting around to sober up. So I started walking home. It was about a two-mile journey, and it took me roughly half an hour. I listened to music on my phone as I strolled briskly along the dark streets.

I arrived home safely. The next day, I hopped on my bicycle and went to retrieve my car.

Which brings me, I suppose, to the point of this post:

Don’t drink and drive. Ever. Period. Even if it’s just a short trip. Even if you’ve only had a couple of beers.

Just don’t do it.

Thanks for reading my rambling, preachy post. Peace out, and I’ll catch you soon!

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