Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spitting gas into the fire

So check this out. Back in 1950s, when cigarettes were still good for you and lead paint was still delicious,  the U.S. military conducted a test which involved setting off atomic bombs near packages of canned and bottled beverages just to see what that might taste like.
Written by three executives from Can Manufacturers Institute and the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute for the Federal Civil Defense Administration, the study says that after placing cans and bottles of soda and beer next to an actual atomic explosion, after measuring subsequent radioactivity and after actual taste tests, go ahead: Grab that can, pop it open and drink away.
"These beverages could be used as potable water sources for immediate emergency purposes as soon as the storage area is safe to enter after a nuclear explosion."
If you can make it to the store, you can drink.
It's good to know that irradiated beer might be potable for "immediate emergency purposes" like say when Jamaal Charles or Doug Martin is gliding through your secondary but what about flavor?

But there were, of course, still pressing questions to be resolved… how did it taste?
Examination made immediately upon recovery showed no observable gross changes in the appearance of the beverages. Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality, although there was evidence of a slight flavor change in some of the products exposed at 1270 ft from GZ [Ground Zero]. Those farther away showed no change.
Immediate taste tests… So immediately after they nuked some beer and soda, someone — it doesn’t say who — took a swig of them. In the name of Science. But of course, they didn’t stop just there:
Representative samples of the various exposed packaged beers, as well as un-exposed control samples in both cans and bottles, were submitted to five qualified laboratories for carefully controlled taste-testing. The cumulative opinions on the various beers indicated a range from “commercial quality” on through “aged” and “definitely off.” All agreed, however, that the beer could unquestionably be used as an emergency source of potable beverages. Obviously, if a large storage of such packaged beers was to be trapped in a zone of such intense radiation following a nuclear explosion, ultimate usage of the beverages beyond the emergency utility would likely be subject to review of the taste before return to commercial distribution.
Not satisfied with their spot taste testing, they sent the radioactive beer on to careful laboratory study. And lo, it tasted acceptable, but not very good! Your tax dollars at work.
But check out that last line again: radioactive beer might not be good to “return to commercial distribution” after the nukes had fallen, because of the taste. 
About that last "acceptable for commercial distribution" bit, the good people at Miller Brewing may beg to differ. As regular consumers of their "Lite" beer, we're here to assure you that taste isn't at the top of their priorities list with regard to their product or their advertising.*  Take, for example, this series of commercials from a few years back featuring John C. McGinley as  "The Commissioner" a character loosely based on Roger Goodell's authoritarian jackassery who sternly enforced the rules of.. drinking crap beer.

These commercials represent the apex of Goodell's reign of terror. Since that time, things have taken a pronounced turn for the worse for Roger.  Call it a full-on meltdown, call it a nuclear winter, if you like, but Roger Goodell's image is clearly radioactive in the eyes of a growing number of sports fans and journalists.  For now, anyway.  A few months from now, we're sure we'll be at least three "character studies"  into ESPN's Goodell rehabilitation project. But, for the moment, he's pretty well roundly hated.

But never mind all that. He's still doing exactly what he was hired to do. Here's Deadspin's Tommy Craggs on the number Goodell (and his bosses the NFL owners)  pulled on their referees this year. 

The NFL locked out its referees in the name of taking away their pensions. It was not that the pensions were a threat to the longterm fiscal survival of the league—again and again, we were reminded that the sums involved were pocket change in a growing, multibillion-dollar enterprise. It was that the pensions existed at all. The mere existence of a defined-benefit retirement plan offended an ownership class that had looked around and seen that every other business owner in America had already broken that particular contract. The referees' old deal was deemed insufficiently hard-edged or market-driven. That was the most vulgar thing about the lockout. It was a matter of ideological purity. It was … aesthetic.
If it's bad enough for the rest of us, in other words, it should be bad enough for them, too. And on that count, the only one that really mattered to the league, the NFL won. The refs will keep their pensions, but beginning in 2017, the defined-benefit plan will be frozen, and new hires will get thrown into 401(k)s.
Imagine one of those Miller Lite commercials where two guys are sitting in a bar somewhere discussing their retirement plans. Suddenly WHOOSH!  "The Commish" materializes to rip their benefits documentation from their hands and replace it with a roll of lottery tickets. Everyone yells, "Thanks, Commish!"  Thumbs-ups are exchanged. Some mostly naked women walk by.  There's probably a dog in it somehow.

This is pretty much what just happened with regard to the referees lockout. Sure there's a lot of commotion but sooner or later everyone ends up being made to drink the irradiated beer and pretend everything is just fine.

Meanwhile the Saints are conducting a post-apocalyptic experiment of their own. If a pro football team has its entire brain trust (plus Joe Vitt) nuked from orbit by The Commish, will the product left on the field still be of suitable taste for a "return to commercial distribution"?  In a year filled with frustration and repeated incidents of catharsis denied, the Saints are looking at one last opportunity to give their fans a bona-fide reward for their emotional investment in this meltdown of a season.  The Atlanta Falcons are in town.  They are 8-0.

The local folks understand this but Saints-Falcons has long been one of the NFL's most underrated rivalries, at least in the national press.  The Angry Who Dat has a post up at CSC where he summarizes his experience of the series during his lifetime.  You should read the whole thing, but here are some facts I found particularly enlightening.
The Falcon, contrary to popular fan opinion, is not a majestic animal. It eats small birds, rodents and insects. It is host to a plethora of parasites including tapeworms, nematodes, and something called "chewing lice." It hosts bacteria and can carry malaria. There is such a thing, believe it or not, as Falconid Herpesvirus. 70% of them don't survive past the first year in some areas, and they have been endangered locally at times. They hunt by swooping down on their prey at speeds up to 240 miles per hour, the fastest speed at which any person has ever clocked an animal.

That is the modus operandi of the Falcon: they fly high, above it all, and when they're most hungry, they return to Earth faster than any living thing on the planet.

An apt metaphor, I'd say.
I'm a few years older than AWD and I think that might explain why my memories of the rivalry aren't quite as... well.. angry as his are. Tragi-comic, sure but, until recent years when the stakes have been a bit higher, the series hasn't been exactly bitter.  I've described it, in fact, as more of a "sibling rivalry" 

The Saints and the Falcons arrived in the NFL at roughly the same time int the mid-sixties and the teams, like the Southern cities they represent, became fast rivals. Like a lot of sports rivalries, the Saints and Falcons always play each other close, tend to be in each others' way at exactly the right times, and unusual things happen when they play each other. But unlike a lot of typical rivalries, it would be inaccurate to say that the teams and their fan bases hate each other. In fact, Saints-Falcons is best described as sibling rivalry.

Historically, the South's two best known cities have often compared themselves with one another each proud of the ways in which it isn't like the other. Atlanta is more prosperous. New Orleans is more fun. But also each is a little jealous of the things its rival has that it doesn't. But where there is jealousy there isn't much hostility. Saints fans don't really hate the Falcons, they just really really want to beat them.

Furthermore, a lot of New Orleanians have family who live in Atlanta. That was true before the Federal Flood, but after that event lot of New Orleanians ended up in Atlanta. Many are still there now. This commerce between the two cities only strengthens the familial relationship. For a time during the early 2000s, the teams' respective starting quarterbacks were cousins. Most fans thought this only natural.

The two annual games between these teams typically carry the strongest numbers of fans traveling with the team to each of the cities. Saints fans and Falcons fans know each other. Visiting Falcons fans hanging out in and around the Superdome are typically good humored, and fun to tease and tailgate with. Saints fans visiting the Georgia Dome, well, they know how to put on a show too.
Because we're in a rare period where both teams have been competitive at the same time, things have been a bit more intense, but I think the above is probably still essentially true.  We don't exactly hate those people... they just are incredibly stupid and annoy the hell out of us.


The thing is, though, they're catching us here at a really really really bad time.  We've just had our shit messed up real bad by some people who we're sure will get theirs when the time comes. It just so happens that these jackasses are pre-maturely celebrating their undefeated season directly in our way.  And while we're still alive and in this mood and happen to knock at their door... well...

*Nevertheless the watery American lager remains distinctly potable in our regard, especially in emergency situations.


Jen L said...

Speaking of nuclear, have you been reading @AynW's McSweeney column? http://www.mcsweeneys.net/columns/are-you-telling-me-that-this-suckers-nuclear-adventures-in-atomic-tourism
Good stuff.

Clay Kirby said...

I think the Saints have gotten in the Falcons' head...

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