Time to Eskimo Up? Yes, Dear
By Alysse Minkoff
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: We sent our own sunny Southern California girl, Alysse Minkoff, into the arctic air of New England along with Mike O'Malley, star of the CBS series "Yes, Dear," for the Patriots' playoff game against Tennessee on Saturday night. Why? Because she'd only seen temperatures like that on the Weather Channel. Subzero? As far as Alysse is concerned, that's a refrigerator, not a kickoff temperature fit for humans. Good thing she had O'Malley there to keep her warm.

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Mike O'Malley unzips his suitcase, stuffed full of an odd assortment of cold-weather gear. "Eskimo Up!" he hollers. "How many layers of socks do you have on?"

Mike O'Malley, Alysse Minkoff
Mike O'Malley and Alysse Minkoff ingest a little "anti-freeze" before heading to the stadium.
He looks down at my shoes.

"You are not going to wear those clogs to the game, are you? Hey, Greg -- the girl from California brought clogs. They're about as warm as Dr. Scholl's, circa 1974. Get a look at this."

Uh-Oh. I guess the $600 I spent at the Patagonia store in Venice, Calif., is just about one pair of Ugg boots and three more layers of Capeline short of preventing hypothermia. I am about to attend the coldest playoff game in Patriots' history; and as usual, I brought the wrong clothes.

As the star of the hit CBS comedy, "Yes, Dear," rummages through his bag, I'm thrown extra socks. Toe warmers. Hand warmers. Another jacket. And yes, even a pair of Mike O'Malley's shoes -- size 11½.

I dutifully put them on. Why? Because when you're hanging with the irrepressible force of nature that is Mike O'Malley, there just isn't time enough to think before you act. And even if there is, you're usually laughing so hard that you forget the concept might not be as sane as it seemed when you first hear it.

Case In Point: Rumpleminz, a 100-proof Peppermint Schnapps which, after much pestering on my part, O'Malley allows me to bring to the Tailgate. I arrive at his cousin Matt McGuire's house bearing two bottles of Rumpleminz and a box of Godiva chocolates. If I'm going to have my frozen carcass shipped back home to Los Angeles, Godiva will be prominent in my last meal. Ditto alcohol. I'm strictly a Belvedere-martini-on-the-rocks kinda girl. What the heck am I doing toting two bottles of 100-proof hootch around, anyhow?

Several hundred layers of clothes later, the entire O'Malley/McGuire/Old Friends contingent gathers in the living room for its first shots of Rumpleminz and a toast. I suddenly feel quite toasty, and it isn't just the 200 clams worth of Capeline underwear I'm sporting that makes me feel this way.

"I haven't had this since college," O'Malley says, looking at the empty shot glass in his hand. "Group Photo!"

And before you can say "True Patriot," a happy pile assembles in front of the fireplace. McGuire's wife, Jessica, gives me a pair of her own shoes that fit a whole lot better than the ones currently making me look like Bozo the Clown.

A Technical Note: We're in Boston, not Hollywood. A huge continent separates us from publicists and handlers. So it takes about 30 seconds before I am made an honorary member of the Clan. I am subject to the same ribbing, trash talk and hugs as are The Cousins -- some of whom have flown in from South Dakota and Washington, D.C., to share this subzero experience, O'Malley/McGuire style.

Mike O'Malley is the merry ringleader, camp counselor, ticket broker, snack purchaser and, mostly, die-hard Patriot fan who just wants to go to the game, freeze his fanny off and watch his beloved team move one step closer to the Super Bowl. This isn't a celebrity interview designed to look casual and promote his television show. I am part of a family moment. The magic and the passion and the unalloyed joy that this group shares in support of the Patriots are palpable and contagious.

Mike O'Malley,
O'Malley and Greg Powers spent almost as much time getting dressed as they did at the stadium.
By the way, it's pronounced Paaaat-riots. In case you're taking notes.

Finding a parking space at Gillette Stadium is no picnic. A prime off-site lot is full. We give it a go, anyway. I stick my head out of the window, plead asthma and California, whine about the cold and beg to be allowed into the lot.

"Sweethaht," the attendant says in that Bostonish way that drags the word "heart" out into three syllables. "There's another lot 50 yards down the road. It's haaalf a block."

We go there. and I try not to sulk, because Mike's friend Greg Powers (who is behind the wheel) knows full well that those 50 yaaards are gonna cost us about 45 minutes tacked on to the drive home.

After a very cold walk to the box office, tickets are distributed and we make our way over to a tented, warm tailgate party. The St. Louis game is on, and guys wearing T-shirts are hollering. I am so frozen from the walk, I completely forget to take off a few layers. This is a mistake. Thankfully someone instantly hands me a beer. Moments later, Mike's Uncle Jim grabs it out of my hand and hands me a "real beer" -- a Hop Devil. And then he breaks out a bottle of "Black Bush" whiskey.

I am, in this moment, a part of the O'Malley clan and we're in Massachusetts; so, technically, I'm Irish and this shouldn't be a problem. But hold on a second. Rumpleminz. Beer. And now whiskey. Can you spell haaaangover?

My Rabbi, Steven Jacobs, who taught me everything I've ever needed to know about drinking and sports, always limits the combination to two types of alcohol. Never mix Manischevits and vodka -- this from a Patriots fanatic who was once a Rabbi in Dublin, Ireland. According to Rabbi Steven: The Grape and The Grain can be mixed if that's all you do, and you do it in moderation and only on the Sabbath. (Or when his Brookline, Mass., pal Robert "Bobby" Kraft's Patriots are on the field.)

Schnapps, beer and whiskey -- all before kickoff? Big Trouble. O'Malley shares his lamb kebab with me to add a little protein to the mix, and once again we "Eskimo Up" and walk over to the stadium. O'Malley programs his cell phone number into mine.

"Any problems, you call me. I'll fix it. See you inside," he says, and off I go into the cold night in search of my credential.

After a somewhat harrowing experience trying to locate the well-hidden kiosk containing my all-important Press Pass, I am given a huge assist by Michael Regan. This stadium concierge is somewhat baffled that I have managed to make it inside the stadium without a game ticket or a credential, as well as without being searched by security. True confession time: The line was long. I was cold and cranky. So I walked right into the stadium, took the escalator up to the Club Level and begged Regan to help me. And like any nice Irish boy from Boston would, he did the polite thing: Threw on 27 layers and put me in the freight elevator in search of the Media Window.

That's when I hear that it is so cold, the tap lines from the kegs have frozen and everyone is going to have to drink bottled beer.

Once my credential is secured, we make our way over to a luxury suite, where O'Malley meets up with another group of old friends.

Question: Does this New Hampshire native know everyone in Boston? Probably. Goody.

Mike O'Malley
O'Malley's clan chases down all those "spirits" with a little bit of protein.
With all of the drama that Mike and Greg faced trying to find their suite, they make it upstairs with about two minutes to spare before kickoff.

A Technical Note: The luxury suite is just about as cold as the seats below -- the windows are open. And, much like condoms, luxury suites are, indeed, necessary, but they do sort of change the experience.

When Tom Brady tosses a 41-yard TD pass to rookie receiver Bethel Johnson and the Gillette Stadium crowd erupts, O'Malley is in a bit of a pickle.

"I really, really want to be out there," he says, pointing to the 68,000 frigid fans dancing below us. "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, because they've done us a 'solid' by letting us hang up here. But I've just gotta get down there!"

We leave behind the comforts of the luxury box, and moments later we're out among the frigid fans who have now reached a fever pitch.

Big Games call for Big Plays; and like Tom Brady, I'm a "Whatever It Takes" player.

Mike O'Malley, Alysse Minkoff
Our writer and O'Malley get an up-close view of the action.
I look at Mike O'Malley with his arm around Greg, who he has known since he was 9 years old. That's when the thing about sports and friendship and teams -- and guys -- hits me. It's about the love they have for The Game and each other, and how it all gets tossed together at a tailgate with a Cold One, and how it ends up with a bunch of men dancing in the aisles to Aerosmith.

Sadly, that's conspicuously absent from the cultural landscape (if you can call it that) I currently inhabit in Los Angeles.

On this night, it isn't about Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Tom Werner or the Kraft Family sitting in their toasty luxury boxes. It's about Weber grills and toe warmers and layers and love. It's about football and family -- and that makes a temperature so low that an egg would freeze on the sidewalk in less than a minute kind of irrelevant.

At this moment.

My toes, however, do not necessarily agree with this concept. The toe warmers are not nearly as effective as the hand warmers. Big bummer. And then a very nice security guard, who is a fan of "Yes, Dear," asks us to leave the sidelines. And we do.

At halftime, most of the group meets in the bar in the Club Level.

"Chowdah?" O'Malley asks. "I'm buying. Put your money away. It's no good here."

O'Malley's clan
Powers shows off his dance moves as "Summer Wind" plays on the p.a. system.
And all too soon, halftime ends and we are standing/sitting in Club Seats at around the 40-yard line. We dance to "TNT", "For Those About To Rock", and, hilariously, Sinatra's "Summer Wind." Some of the crowd is cozily wrapped in down sleeping bags and sipping hot chocolate. I see a whole bunch of men peeling off their shirts and dancing. Talk about solidarity with Brady's gloveless throwing hand -- Right On!

The late fourth-quarter drive is a thing of beauty to witness alongside the ebullient O'Malley. Brady's fourth-and-3 completion to Troy Brown, setting up Adam Vinatieri's 46-yard field goal, has us all holding our breaths, hugging and jumping up and down. And the Patriots, yet again, win at home, 17-14, over the Titans.

As cold as it is, I'm sad to see it end. A once-in-a-lifetime experience evaporates like steam. O'Malley looks like a very happy 9-year-old as we make our way up the stairs, dancing and singing along to The Boss's "Glory Days."

Greg warms up the car for us, and we make plans to rendezvous back at the McGuires for cribbage and the postgame wrap-up.

"Brady was awesome," O'Malley says as we get in the car. "Man, those were some f------ clutch plays!"

"That guy dropping the ball ... what was up with that?" Greg asks. "Daniel Graham, Ohhohohohoho, he's had more than a couple games like that."

"Hey," O'Malley interjects. "Everyone's allowed to have a bad game. No, I mean it. It just doesn't matter -- they won. And Brady is so awesome and so confident, man. When he hit Troy Brown on that third-and-4, that was a huge play."

"He ran for two first downs," old friend Ken Coelho muses. "How clutch is that?"

"We've got a great system. A great coach. And a great quarterback," O'Malley says. "And I'm gonna wake up tomorrow and watch the highlights on 'SportsCenter' six times! Look, we won. We survive to play another week. And that's all that counts."

Enough said.

O'Malley, Minkoff
Victory is secure. So, let's go warm up!
We're back home. The minute I peel off my Headsoxz, I'm handed an ice-cold Victory Ale -- nothing but "Real Beer" to be found in this fridge. Everyone is fading -- save the Uncles and Cousins, who are engrossed in a cribbage game in the dining room. Jessica breaks out the Godiva's and cites a study that says women are supposed to have at least four ounces of chocolate a day ... and, OK, that works for me!

We all decide that it was more than worth it. The crowds. The 3-degree temperature. The logistical hassles. We were lucky enough to share the experience of a lifetime, and we still have all our fingers and toes.

As O'Malley hugs me goodbye, he looks into my eyes.

"Now listen," he says. "You're our Good Luck Charm. I'll see you in Houston. At the Super Bowl. We'll do another installment. Thanks for coming. I really appreciate you being such a good sport, and being ready to play. This wasn't like Pauley Pavilion, where you put on a sweater and pretend it's winter."

No lie.

"Always, 'Game On' with me," I assure him. "It's my motto. I'll bring the hand warmers to Houston, for luck."

I say a very reluctant goodnight to the entire clan.

And, the adventure continues.

Alysse Minkoff has written for Ladies Home Journal, Cigar Aficionado Magazine, and MSNBC. She can be reached at AGirlReporter@aol.com.





COLD REALITY

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