We Eat What We Like

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were patiently waiting in a long line to get something that hadn’t been readily available in that particular form in our city for a long long time. That something was a staple of the area in which we grew up, and the line itself had nearly a hundred other people willing to wait for the exact same thing. Sure, it was a boring wait, but there was excitement in the air. People discussing for hours on end which items they were most eager to get. And I’m not kidding when I say hours. We waited over 2 hours in this line. “What for” you ask? Well, we waited over 2 hours in a line for the only Dunkin Donuts location in the Los Angeles area. This was the Sunday after it opened, and throughout the week we were hearing of long, hour or two lines from our friends on social media. We still went. Because Dunkin’ hadn’t ever been in Los Angeles, at least not during the period in which we lived there.

Dunkin’ Donuts, like any other regional super-chain, has the kind of cultural following that a band may have. If you move to a new area and the don’t know about Dunkin’ – it becomes this amazing, mythical experience that one cannot simply comprehend unless they’re from there. The fact that it is something so prevalent in Boston and other east-coast or midwestern cities and so non-existent in LA made the fact that the company has finally started opening stores back in the Southern California area that much more exciting.

Now look, I know Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t realistically the best anything. Despite being in the company’s name, the donuts are average but tasty. The coffee is very sweet and has a wide variety of flavors, often expanding during the different seasons. My favorite, and most other people’s favorite product is their coffee, most likely their iced coffee – which in a country increasingly concerned about health and watching what one consumes, may be too sugary and sweet for many people’s tastes. Especially in a very heath-conscious town like Los Angeles. However, as an alternative to the perceived “high class-ness” of chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’ is an anti-everything version of the Starbucks style of coffee shop. It’s barely a coffee shop – more along the lines of a fast food place that provides great-tasting coffee and perfectly fine donuts. And also is probably the best culprit of that particular spelling of the word “doughnut.”

But Dunkin’ Donuts is just one of those things that reminds you of home, and when you move away from your home, especially 3,000 miles away, you seek out those homely comforts on a regular basis. I have been purchasing Dunkin’ ground coffee for home for 5 years, and I had literally just been back to Boston the week before and had a Dunkin coffee in Boston, and yet I still wanted to and had no problem with braving a 2+ hour line to get some in LA.

Some people can’t accept that. When we had waited 2 hours and were about to actually enter the store, when a woman stops by and asks us how long we’ve been waiting. After telling her the approximate among of time, she asks us if we’ve actually every had Dunkin’ Donuts. And before we even get a chance to answer her question, she simply walks away saying “…it’s not worth it.”

This irked me. I joked to the people behind me in line who she was also talking to, that this woman basically said, to our faces, “hey – you guys are all idiots and you’re wasting your time. I’m better than you because I’m not stupid enough to do that.” Who the hell is this woman to tell me how I should spend my time or what is “worth” my time? What is it to her how other people spend their time? Would she walk by the line to a concert or sporting event and be like “have you seen basketball? it’s not worth it.” If I were on a bike driving by her while she was walking down the street, I wouldn’t say – “you’re wasting your time, biking is much better and quicker!” Just keep walking lady, pay no attention to the hundreds of people clearly crazy enough to wait in a line for a thing. We’re not giving you any trouble or inconvenience. Why the hate?

Now, the internet has become a great place not only for long-winded personal rants like this one, but for anonymous critique and negative energy. “Outrage culture,” “trolling,” and all those other negative words that cause a simple event or concept, put a negative spin on it and make it “the worst thing in the world (today).” So it may just be more prevalent in society today for people to outwardly express their discontent on things that don’t necessarily concern them much, they just always feel the need to have an opinion on. But it’s ridiculous. Why does person B have to put down person A for liking a thing? Aren’t we all individuals with individual tastes? Sure, a single Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut you once had may have not wowed you, and you personally can’t imagine waiting more than 5 minutes for that item. So don’t do it. It was worth it to us hundred people that day, and the thousands that waited in line for similar lengths of time that opening week, and the weeks that followed. So why make a stink about it? Does it really make you feel superior to outwardly express your belief that a large group of people on a city block were wasting their time, and you were a better person for not wasting your time?

I get this as a fan of Professional Wrestling a lot. Yes, I may not have publicly announced that on this site, but it’s all over my social media, and to my close friends and family it’s no secret. But Pro Wrestling fans get this automatic disdain all the time. “You know that stuff is fake, right?” is the common refrain. It’s not real sports, it’s pre-determined, so therefore it can’t be as exciting or entertaining as real sports, because you never know what’s going to happen. Sure, that’s a main draw of real sports – you never know the outcome. And that’s why I also love sports. There’s an excitement in witnessing something unfold before your eyes, and there can be surprises everywhere. That also applies to Pro Wrestling. Sure, SOMEONE knows the outcome, but as a fan viewing the product, I personally don’t know the outcome. So if tomorrow you found out that for the past 50 years, every single NFL game had been pre-determined and it was a huge rouse, would that take away from your prior enjoyment of football? For those fans who have been fortunate enough to see their team win a Superbowl, would that take away from the excitement and glee you felt when the final seconds of the clock wound down as your team secured victory? Of course not. Pro Wrestling at its best, can tap into that glee – when you have a favorite wrestler going through his trials and tribulations in getting to that World Championship. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a thing, because it’s manufactured to tap into that as a fan. The better parts of being a Pro wrestling fan is that you can also analyze the storytelling like a television show; which is also completely fabricated and a small group of people know the outcome in advance. Does that take away from your enjoyment of Breaking Bad? Of course not! That’s ridiculous. By the same token, when you get annoyed by a creative decision or direction of a favorite show, do you not talk to your friends about it and map out what you would have done? Don’t people also do that with sports? “We should have run the ball more, their defense was all over our receivers all game, that’s why we lost.” You as a fan have no control over what you’re watching and enjoying, you’re just along for the ride. Pro Wresting gives fans a chance to loudly voice their opinions about certain characters or storylines while in the arena. We don’t like a guy? “BOOOOOO!!! YOU SUCK!!” We love a guy? “DAN-IEL BRY-AN clap clap clapclapclap!” Pro Wrestling, since it is put on as live entertainment on a weekly basis, is made to cater to the audience in a way that sports can’t and television or other scripted entertainment can’t do directly. That’s the appeal. Sports-themed entertainment we can have a part in. Throughout the history of the industry, countless wrestlers have changed face (to sheepishly use some wrestling terminology) because fans have rejected the position or character being presented to them. You know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? You know how popular and awesome he is right now? When he debuted he was this cartoonish, smiley guy with jheri curls and streamers on his outfit. People did not like it, and eventually boo’ed him so much WWE (WWF at the time) decided to turn him into a bad guy, to fit what the fans thought of him. He eventually used that to create “The Rock” character, someone who fans could boo because they loved to boo, and he was too entertaining not to like.

Yes, that’s the future lead of Hercules.

That’s a very long-winded way of saying that it is awesome being a fan of a thing. I’ve been using the vague term “a thing” because it can apply to anything. You’re a dude and you like My Little Pony? Sure. You’re a die-hard Menudo fan? Why not. You never miss a performance of Shakespeare in the Park? Have at it. Entertainment exists so that the millions (and millions!) of people can find what they like and go enjoy it. I have been working for the past 4 years in Reality Television. I like some of shows and I don’t like other shows. There are people who LOVE every single reality show in existence. There are those who don’t. That’s totally fine. If you’re in the latter category, you don’t have to tell me your disdain for what has been paying my bills and keeping me not homeless for 4 years. Clearly some people like it, which is why it is successful and exists in the first place. You can watch something you like, and don’t worry about stuff you don’t like.

This rant was in part sparked by wrestling fan and popular radio personality, Sam Roberts, in his recent podcast rant about Apple people vs. Not Apple People. As an Apple Person myself, I tend to agree with NotSam. I like Apple and have liked Apple products my whole life because there’s very little complications to them. Things just work and are convenient and easy. I’ve made my consumer decision, so I will stick with that ecosystem for as long as they’ll shell stuff out for me. I like their products, I like the user experience, it’s comfortable and uncomplicated. I don’t think about “the competition.” But the competition seems like all they do is think about Apple. I get that it’s business and consumer products that live or die by competition, however for a non-Apple user to perpetually hate on any and all Apple users for simply being an Apple user is the same principle of that lady telling us that waiting 2 hours in line for something we love isn’t worth it. Of course it’s worth it if you like it. Look at how many people wait for way longer than 2 hours for the launch of the new iPhones last week! Sure we’re all literally buying into a culture of die-hard fandom for products instead of entertainment like sports or wrestling, but if we as humans are inclined to geek-out over something that makes you happy, why discourage that? In the end, it’s all a luxury we’re all too complacent with. We should be thankful we have such “first-world problems” like being able to choose which awesome, amazing, incredibly advanced mini-computer we want to use on a daily basis for communication and entertainment. So let’s just high-five those people waiting in line at Apple Stores across the country, celebrate them expressing their excitement over one of their loves. Let’s flip channels, stop at Monday Night Raw, and instead of roll our eyes at how ridiculous and “fake” the product in the ring looks, and instead appreciate how happy those people in the arena are to just be there. Let’s give kudos to those sports fans who during the World Cup or Olympics, woke up at 4am just to watch their team play live from across the globe. We’re an advanced civilization and fellow humans invented or created all these incredible things we’re going crazy over. That’s something amazing. Just enjoy it.

And just try Dunkin’s iced coffee, even if you prefer Starbucks. I don’t need you to get it, I just need you to try it without judgement. Thanks.

Defending your Fan Base! A Boston Sports-Fan’s request to all Sports Fans.

As a sports fan, you live and die by your team. We all know and accept this. Your team is the best one, no one else should care about anything but your team, and every other team should just get out of the way of your team winning the championship. Your team deserves the best free agents and trades, and you can’t IMAGINE why a player would sign with that other team, just for a couple extra bucks (okay, maybe if you’re a realistic sports fan, that part you can always understand).

BUT – here’s something I’ve been forced to come to terms with since moving away from the city in which my fandom is centralized around: Your Fan Base has a national perception. And most likely it’s not great. This brings me to my question – can you defend your fan base as strongly as you defend your team? I’m leaving this open to all fan bases, as I know a ton that are members of the more prominent/loud/obnoxious/angry/passionate fan bases.

I’ll offer my two-cents about Boston fans. I know we are widely considered to be among the most obnoxious and passionate fan bases in the country. I’m not going to say “best” or “worst,” because that’s just a matter of opinion (and if you pay attention to Deadspin now, as they tear apart each NFL team before the season starts, every NFL fan base sucks and doesn’t deserve anything). Boston fans can be loud, Boston fans can be over-the-top, Boston fans can be extreme – we’re either going all the way this year or we’ll never win another game again. We’re superstitious and negative, but we’ll stand by the Patriots through “SpyGate,” defend David Ortiz and his PED allegations, cheer for Brad Marchand whenever he does anything that makes you as an opposing fan hate him. Kevin Garnett was a smack-talking bully on the court, but he was OUR smack-talking bully. (And now Brooklyn’s smack-talking bully). We’ll argue that Nomar was better than Jeter, and Pedroia is better than Cano. Williams was better than DiMaggio. Bobby Orr better than Gretsky. Bird better than Magic. Not sure how many of those arguments we win in other states.

You can call us obnoxious, you can call us homers, you can call us never-satisfied, you can call us championship-hungry, you can call us shitty fans. Most of you do anyways.  But at least we care about ALL of our teams. Boston is one of a few cities that can call themselves a Baseball town, a Hockey town, A Basketball town and a Football town without any detractors. Most cities can only claim ONE of those sports, maybe two. I live in Los Angeles currently – they’re definitely a Basketball town. No doubt about that. The LA Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup. Not sure I’d call LA a Hockey Town. I just went to the 3-game series between the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now – still not sure I’d call LA a baseball town. LA doesn’t even have a football team, so that’s out of the question.

Growing up, I just missed out on the Celtics’ era of greatness, too young to really follow the Bruins mid 80s-mid 90s unsuccessful playoff runs. The Patriots weren’t good during that stretch until they somehow made it into Superbowl XXXI in 1996, only to get crushed by Brett Favre’s Packers. I only remember being interested in the Red Sox as a child. Maybe because we’d go to Fenway once a season. Maybe because big-name players like Mo Vaughn, Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco were on the team. And Nomah! I followed the Celtics when Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker came onto the scene, then quickly lost interest in the NBA (something that seems to happen with me in waves). But as a Boston fan I always had a connection to those teams, even if they weren’t relevant or I didn’t pay attention to the league at the time. I’ve conjectured recently that depending on what era in a team’s history you grew up in, whether they are relevant for greatness or relevant for never-winning, that’s the team you’re most connected to. I grew up between the Red Sox’s 1986 World Series loss (missed it by a month, thanks Mom and Dad!) and the 2004 “Curse-Breaking” Champs. What happened in Red Sox land during that 18-year stretch? Oh just 5 playoff appearances/exits and 4 Yankees World Series wins. That puts me in familiar territory to any generation of Red Sox fan in the prior 86 years.

I grew up in the last 18 years of Red Sox franchise woes. We had the talent, we just never could put it together. But that’s the sentiment that overwhelmingly took over my young self as I grew into a Boston sports fan. That’s hard to shake. I’m not apologizing for every instance of a Boston fan complaining about a 3-game losing streak when we’re still in 1st place, or worrying about losing 1 game in the Stanley Cup playoffs because a couple years ago we lost 4 straight to lose the series after being up 3-0. But Boston fans are always VERY aware of our teams’ past history. Or recent history. No one would bring themselves to predict the 2013 Red Sox would be this good this far into the season, after the debacle that was 2012. It’s about managing expectations. Sometimes, we know we have a good shot – like the last 10 years of Patriots teams. We know when we don’t have a shot – like the upcoming Celtics season. Worrying and complaining is all part of what makes us Boston sports fans, and to a certain extent, sports fans in general. While the teams we root for may be different, we’re all sports fans at our foundation. We just want to see our teams do well and win championships. It’s something we have very little control over, but because it has such a community-bonding capacity, we let sports take over our lives and emotions. Our anxiety and stress levels shoot through the roof during playoff runs. We check standings every day as part of our morning routines. Sports are a water-cooler topic of conversation, before or after you’re done talking about the last episode of Breaking Bad. Nothing beats going to a live sporting-event; where else can you see 30,000-70,000 people from one community experiencing  the same thing? Non-sports fans like going to games for the environment. Maybe they’ll learn a thing or two from their super-fan boyfriend/girlfriend/family member/friend. Our biggest sports stars are legitimate celebrities.  We have a growing number of 24/7 sports television networks. It’s real-life drama, complete with scandals, redemption stories, “good guys” and “bad guys.” Being a fan is simply picking sides – something that you can’t really do in any other form of entertainment.

So that brings me to my request, fellow sports fans. Please comment, on here, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever, with your thoughts on being a sports fan, and defending your particular fan base. Help me realize how similar we all are, we’re just rooting for different color jerseys.

**UPDATE – I was waiting for Deadspin to post their “Why Your Team Sucks” for the Patriots this season, and forgot they had real Pats fans write in and complain about themselves. So in the spirit of “Defending” your fan base (really the opposite), here’s some raw thoughts from real Deadspin readers/Patriots fans about why they hate other Patriot fans, and by virtue other Boston Fans.

We Are All Boston Patriots

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Like many other displaced Bostonians, the past 4 years Marathon Monday/Patriot’s Day has been a day I missed my hometown the most. Memories starting from when I was a little kid, driving to Wellesley or Newton to catch a glimpse of the city-wide event, cheer runners on as they trek toward their 26.2 mile goal, waiting in the heart of the city, to my college years, gathering on Beacon Street, cheering on the runners, some of whom may be friends or fellow college students, but in a much more mature, outdoor party-like atmosphere. I remember going to the 11 AM Red Sox game, peeking toward Kenmore Square as the game drew to a close, seeing the runners on their last few miles toward the end. Then going into Kenmore to cheer them on and give high fives to the tens of thousands of brave, strong-willed and no doubt tired people with numbers on their bibs.

That’s what Patriot’s Day in Boston is supposed to be about. That’s what it always has been about. And in the wake of yesterday’s horrible tragedies at that same finish line that for over 4 hours after the start of the race this year, and every previous year of the Boston Marathon, meant the final goal of those runners from all across the globe, I have been having a lot of trouble collecting my thoughts. Since moving to Los Angeles, Marathon Monday is a day every year as it approaches, I wish my schedule allowed for a quick extended weekend trip home, just to enjoy in the culture and festivities of the day with my fellow Bostonians, as if I never left. This year, despite the tragedy, I feel no different. I wish I could be there in Boston this week to support those affected by this tragedy by donating blood at the hospital, going to candlelight vigils and walking from BC to the Finish Line. I wish I could go to tomorrow night’s Bruins game and show the country and the world our unified Resilience, as President Obama so rightly characterized our city. I find myself struggling to focus at work, feeling so disconnected to the city I still consider my home. Hours staring at news coverage yesterday, and hours reading stories of the aftermath, hearing our sports radio hosts drop all coverage of sports and discuss how close this city is. Hearing personal accounts, including that of The Sports Hub/Toucher and Rich’s Rich Shertenlieb, who’s voice trembled on the radio as he explained how he doesn’t know what to do with the anger he feels after having to rush his family, including two young boys and a wife undergoing chemotherapy, out of his apartment building right where the second bomb exploded.

In a city where all you hear about is Sports, especially living in a city that holds one of it’s teams biggest basketball rivals, it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t from Boston, WHY Boston is such an incredible place. You hear people chide and berate the city and it’s sports fans for being ourselves – loud, obnoxious and passionate. And that’s all people know about Bostonians. But a tragic event like yesterday’s explosions really shows how tight-knit a community Boston is. Strange for such a large metropolitan area to seem so small and close, but living in the Boston area throughout all my pre-college life, and living in the city for 3+ years during college, I really felt the sense of community. I saw it most prominently after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 – a community of people coming together for a joyous occasion, a shared elation sparked from 86 years of disappointment and agony. You could see it in every subsequent Championship Parade during our decade of winning. A city where you may not always smile or high five the stranger you walk by, suddenly is all smiles and high-fives when a unifying event brings us together. Yesterday’s attacks wasn’t about sports, but it was centered around one of the Nation’s and certainly the city’s biggest sporting events. Sports brings people together – to cheer for a common team, or to cheer on runners going after a common goal like crossing the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles on city streets. And in a city where sports bears such a strong importance, it is no surprise to me how strong and resilient our citizens can be in the face of adversity.

Patriot’s Day is supposed to celebrate everything that Boston is about, and by extension, America is about (for those uninitiated, Patriot’s Day is celebrating those who fought in the first battle of the Revolutionary War, in Lexington and Concord.) We wouldn’t call ourselves Americans if that first battle never happened. And that’s what’s so hard to grasp about this attack – they didn’t just attack the Boston Marathon, they didn’t just attack The City of Boston. They attacked the IDEA of celebration Freedom and Patriotism. It makes me sad to realize that going forward, of course we will continue to host the Marathon every year, on Patriot’s Day. But now, there will be this tragedy looming over everyone’s associations of this day, a day that is supposed to be the best day the city has to offer. Sure, future Marathon’s will still have a sense of celebration and accomplishment, but the institution of Patriot’s Day will now forever be scarred. And I hate that such a happy and joyous event has to be associated with such sadness.

Boston, you’re my home.

*I would like to send out my condolences and thoughts to the 3 families who lost their loved ones in this tragedy; The Cambell Family, The Richard Family, and the Lu family in China.