by Elliot Imes
Because I don’t have one single friend who is also a fan of the team I root for, chaining myself to the Cowboys is an exercise in solitude. I stomp around my living room, I hold my head in my hands, but I never turn and make eye contact with anyone who feels the same. And on the days when the Cowboys aren’t on basic cable, and because I can’t afford DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket (though it would be glorious if I could), I have to sit there on a computer and watch Game Update screen on NFL.com, not actually seeing the game.
I did this for years until I realized, “Oh right, sportsbars exist.” But even upon realizing this, there was the inner shame I pre-experienced, imagining what it would be like to sit in a sportsbar by myself, with my sad little Cowboys shirt, eating fries and clapping like a 7-year old child. What would that look like to an outsider? Just awful, that’s what. Add to that the possibility of people making fun of me for being a Cowboys fan, and it was enough to keep me away.
Until two weeks ago, when I finally took the plunge. I went to Trophy’s Bar and Grill, which is attached to a bowling alley called Plaza Lanes. Trophy’s is the place where I truly developed my karaoke game back in 2007, when my friends and I would go every week to stomp around the stage and stand on chairs and embarrass ourselves, all in the name of sometimes good/mostly bad music. So I felt comfortable in the confines of Trophy’s, even if probably no one in the room had seen my stirring rendition of Aerosmith’s “Crying,” when I ended the song with two minutes of wordless squealing.
Just imagine the thrill I felt as I walked into Trophy’s and found that out of 30 people, 20 were Cowboys fans. All of them fully excited to be there. I was on top of the world. This was my place. That day, two weeks ago, the Cowboys soundly beat the hated Eagles, and life was good.
The Sunday after, life was not as good.
At noon I was practicing with one of three bands I play in, H.D. Harmsen and the Electrophones. We have a show coming up where we’re playing at the Des Moines Science Center, and we have to play a two-hour set. This is unheard of for me, but our singer/songwriter/leader/mad genius Dustin is up for the task. Part of that task involves learning cover songs to pad the time, and as it happens, we were practicing our version of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” when Dustin went upstairs. I checked Twitter for updates about the Cowboys, and then stumbled upon the news that Lou Reed had just died.
This was unsettling, to say the least. We were just playing his song. Our drummer Drew respectfully joked that Lou Reed must have made a deal with God that at the very moment when 1,000 bands around the world were playing his songs at the same time, then that meant he had done all he needed to do, and it would be time to go.
I do not like The Velvet Underground, though to be fair, I have only heard Velvet Underground & Nico, and I’m told their records get better after that. The reason I don’t like that record is because Nico is a terrible singer, and her presence suggests that the band was far too beholden to Warhol and his goofball ideas of what a band should be. Plus, some of the songs kinda suck (I don’t care what anyone says about “Heroin,” I think it’s seven minutes of uselessness). For all the things I don’t like about that record, none of them involve Lou Reed. He is cool. I listened to Berlin once, with my wife, and neither of us liked it, but I still knew it was cool. And the mere idea of Metal Machine Music is achingly awesome. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if I eventually fall in love with Lou Reed’s entire discography, or if I maintain a detachment from his music. What matters is that I acknowledge Lou Reed to be one of the coolest men who ever walked the planet.
We finished practice, with Dustin handling himself remarkably well given that one of his musical idols was gone, but I imagine Dustin just collapsed in tears right after we left. I sped off to Trophy’s, to catch the Cowboys/Lions game already in the third quarter. The bar was a little less full than the week before, but again occupied by a majority of Cowboys fans. I was still in friendly territory.
However, even friendly territory can be populated by a few enemies. The Cowboys are undoubtedly the most hated team in the NFL, for reasons that are too complex to get into right now. The hatred results in dudes who love to talk shit on the Cowboys, especially in public during their games. It can be fun, like the week before when they won, but other times, it feels like someone dancing on your mother’s grave.
If you don’t know the story of this game, here’s a summary: Both teams scored a lot of points, Calvin Johnson made fools out of the Cowboys defense, Dez Bryant acted like a passionate human being on the sideline and got torn apart by the media for being a black person who yells (as opposed to a white person like Tom Brady who has permission to yell at everyone because he’s a “leader”), and after all the big noise of the game, the Cowboys had the lead and had the ball on the Lions’ 30-yard line with 1:24 left. I high-fived Cowboys fans around the bar, completely sure that this game was over and the Cowboys were going to be two games above .500 for the first time since 2009. We were pumped up. According to the Advanced NFL Stats Win Probability Calculator, their likelihood of winning at this point was 99%.
But when it’s the Cowboys, 1% happens.
Because of an inexplicable holding penalty, the Cowboys stopped the clock, kicked a field goal, and gave the ball back to the Lions with a minute left. This is a moment that all Cowboys fans are familiar with, where you feel as if you are being led down a hallway toward your public execution. Death by being pushed off a building. You flail for a strand of hope, but you know it’s futile. It will all end in death.
Or, in this case, it ends with the Cowboys blowing it in a brand new way that makes your soul cave in on itself. They lost for no reason. It really was just astounding. I have nothing else to say about it.
Walking out of Trophy’s, that’s when the Cowboy shit-talkers got their courage back, yelling things like, “Yeah, take that walk of shame!” Because I was alone and have never been in a fight, I just thanked them and gave them a little bow, and walked out. Better to not get punched by an overly enthusiastic Raiders fan.
Even though a game like this happens at least three times every season for me, this one seemed to hurt a little bit more. I sulked for the rest of the day, though I had to work on a research paper and couldn’t just wallow and drink. It also didn’t even enter my mind to play all the songs from Velvet Underground & Nico where Nico doesn’t sing and Lou Reed takes center stage, as a little tribute to an obvious giant in the field of music I love so much. It didn’t enter my mind to lay on my floor and blare the shrieking terror of Metal Machine Music, but I should have because it would have been a perfect compliment to my pit of football despair. Instead I was consumed by this stupid team and this stupid game that never pays off. From a man like me, Lou Reed deserved better.
As Lou sang in one of the few VU songs I like, “Feel sick and dirty – more dead than alive.”