Welcome to the Conference III Cookout!

by J.R.

2665108-number-3-three-cut-from-rippling-american-flag Happy Independence Day, Conference III (Happy Thursday, Winnipeg)! A subtle reminder we need your help, probably.

I hope you’re all slathering on a mess of sunblock and chilling your finest American super-extra macrobrews, forming various ground meats into patties of random thickness and width to cook across the top of a flaming fire of freedom.

Yessiree, it’s July the Fourth, a celebration of liberty, megachurches, double-parking and the greatest hegemony the world has ever known.

Be proud of yourself, US of A, for you are responsible for 85.7 some-odd percent of the greatest hockey collective in all the land and you have the graciousness to include Winnipeg, because in addition to being powerful and strapping and tanned, you are also a nice person who does nice things for people; yes, America, you are Freddie Prinze Jr. in She’s All That.

And Conference III contains the best parts of America — from the golden shores of Lake Michigan to Tennessee’s verdant hills to the heft of the Metroplex to the snow-capped majesty of the Rockies to the mighty headwaters of the Mississippi to the whatever is in St. Louis (view of East St. Louis?). And Manitoba, which is an old Ojibwe word for “Honorary America.”

One sweet day, I’d like for all of Conference III to come together for a big old cookout and we’ll all get fat and drunk and then we’ll get in fights and cry and hug, because this is America and this is Conference III and that’s what we do. In the meantime, we’ll have a metaphorical cookout — potluck and BYOB, with a playlist of rockin’ American music and a guestlist of kickass Americans (s/t JC). And, yeah, Winnipeg, you’re invited.

First of all, we gotta start a cookout with the best single about the best season from American hero Will Smith:


Frank_Lloyd_Wright_portraitNice of you to bring the Cup with ya, but you could have left the White Sox jerseys at home. Thanks for bringing enough Italian beef for everyone. I’ll just put the giardiniera in the fridge for later.

For now, shots of Jeppson’s Malört for everyone, because that’s the stuff that strikes a blow for freedom. It can fuel your car — all 16 cylinders — and the first time Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright said “I’m gonna put a creek through the middle of the house because this is America and I am Frank Emm Effing Lloyd Wright,” I’ll give you dollars to donuts he wasn’t drinking Old Style, because good as it is, iconic as it is, you’d have to drink Refrigerator Perry’s weight in the stuff to think “no seriously, the creek goes IN the house.”

And it’s the kind of thinking the City of Big Shoulders is known for, the kind of boundary busting that leads to R. Kelly rhyming “Ignition” with kitchen:


SoapySmithHey, anybody who has to work tomorrow might want to avoid eating the brownies Colorado brought. And, uh, apologies for the Coors Light but Colorado spent all of its money on brownies and then they totally forget they were supposed to bring drinks, too. You know what? Let’s just talk about Soapy Smith, America’s greatest con artist until Ville Leino. Soapy’s ingenious soap racket was basically Adrian Dater’s Sulia of the 1880s. Seriously, this guy had a great con built around America’s compulsive need to buy expensive soap. What a genius.

You know what song is awesome? “Green Eyed Lady” by Denver’s Sugarloaf.


ustv_jr_ewingDon’t get it twisted and expect that Central Texas barbecue from our Dallas friends — that’s the famous stuff, inspired by the Germans and Czechs in Hill Country — because East Texas barbecue is a lot like the barbecue in the rest of the south, except Texans don’t put cole slaw on the plate, because I guess they can’t grow lettuce there. Pop that top on your Lone Star, because it’s hot as hell out here and it’ll make you feel like a cowboy, even if all you know about the horse is looking at mid-90s Calvin Klein advertisements. Oh, you were thinking Dallas would bring Shiner Bock? That’s for hipsters in Austin and people in Luckenbach, who get kick-ass songs, but couldn’t play hockey to save their life. Dallas is a city of commerce and wealth and greed and walking around like you own the place, like J.R. Ewing, who has something up his sleeve for later, yessiree.

It’s a “Psychobilly Freakout,” y’all.


Bob+DylanOh, Minnesota. We said only bring one thing, but you did a booyah and brought a hotdish? That’s just like you, Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Humblebrags. Oh and a delicious bottle of Zenon Kenopka Wine! You shouldn’t have. Really.

What you lack in cuisine and wines made by hockey players, you make up for in songwriting, because ol’ Bob Dylan loves being from Minnesota probably, but even if he doesn’t love you, you love him — more than you love making fun of North Dakota, more than you love The Replacements, more than you love walleye and Prince put together.

Hit that “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”


andrew_jacksonThanks for bringing leftovers from the hot chicken festival. Charming, really. Can hardly taste the grit.

And, sure, Yazoo‘s bigger bodied, bigger flavored beers are more critically acclaimed, but Gerst Amber has the historical gravitas — it echoes a time when every city in America had her own big, cheap beer — cans and bottles perfectly priced for the hard-working souls who made this country great. It’s perfect for a hot summer day (it’s perfect for a hockey game, too — and it’s on tap at Bridgestone Arena, FYI).

It’s the kind of beer Andrew Jackson would have loved — except that it was made by Germans, which means Hessians may have been involved and, uh, well, Old Hickory wasn’t thrilled about the British or people who were friendly therewith.

Crank up the Scorchers, kids. It’s “Last Time Around.”

Annex - Price, Vincent (Bat, The)_01St. Louis

Let’s hope St. Louis brings its eponymous ribs and not St. Paul sandwiches. And I guess there was no chance St. Louis would bring anything but Bud Light, because never in the history of the world has a city been so proud of itself for something so abjectly mediocre — except for St. Louis and how excited they are about those Stanley Cup Finals they lost in the 60s.

St. Louis ribs are squared off and their beer is MOR and yet, the same city produced the decidedly unsquared-off and decidedly not MOR Vincent Price. Be more like Vincent Price, St. Louis. Leave the ribs, though. Take the beer with you.

And play “What A Fool Believes” because Michael McDonald was born damned near in the shadow of the arch.


Oh, so glad you could make it! Leave the smoked goldeye over there by Colorado’s brownies. And Half Pints Beer? Never heard of it, but I’m sure it’s good, because it’s Canadian and Teemu knows Canadians love to talk about how great their beer is.

And let’s talk about Rowdy Roddy Piper — the most American man in Manitoba: a faux Scottish pro wrestler. He got in the pit. He ran out of bubblegum. But he was a swaggering, obnoxious badass who asked the tough questions and played annoying music. Feels right.

The Guess Who knew that that “American Woman” would trick ya and deceive ya and give you a bunch of flag-waving, liberty loving.

Have a safe and wonderful Fourth. Please consider sharing your love and/or hate with us.