Bedwetters vs. Thumbsuckers

McCain betFrom NY Times mag profile of McCain by Mark Leibovich:

He in­vites me to an ac­tual arena that night: in Glen­dale, Ariz., where the Cal­gary Flames of the N.H.L. were in town to play the Phoenix Coy­otes. This is not the most fa­bled ri­valry in sports, but Mc­Cain says he will watch any sport­ing event (“I’d pay to see the Bed­wet­ters play the Thumb­suck­ers”). He is a big fan of the Coy­otes. There are sup­pos­edly oth­er Phoenix Coyote fans, too, though not many of them come to home games. Mc­Cain’s 25-year-old son, Jim­my, dri­ves us to the arena. Cindy Mc­Cain is in the front seat, and I’m in back with the sen­a­tor, who is des­per­ate to hear the pregame show on the ra­dio. Si­lence makes him ner­vous. He keeps bark­ing out call num­bers to Cindy, but no luck. He checks the Coy­otes app to find in­for­ma­tion about the show (Mc­Cain talks in­ces­sant­ly about his new Coy­otes app), and Cindy con­tin­ues to hunt around the ra­dio di­al, ex­cept when she is brac­ing her­self for a crash, which hap­pens on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions dur­ing Jim­my’s gun-and-slam death ride through the greater Phoenix sprawl. When we ar­rive, mirac­u­lous­ly with­out in­ci­dent, the Mc­Cains en­gage in a spir­ited de­bate about which park­ing lot to use. Jim­my takes a few wrong turns; Cindy tells him to slow down and asks why he’s go­ing this way or that way, un­til fi­nally Jim­my snaps and says, “Mom, you make it seem like which park­ing-lot en­trance is the most im­por­tant thing in the world!” In fact, it’s not, he tells her. “I had a woman al­most OD in front of me at a strip club this af­ter­noon. Now that’s some­thing se­ri­ous.”

“Why were you in a strip club this af­ter­noon?” Cindy asks. Jim­my says he was mak­ing a de­liv­ery for the fam­ily beer dis­trib­u­tor­ship. The woman will be fine, Jim­my re­ports. His fa­ther chuck­les in the back.

The arena is ringed with palm trees pop­ping out of the con­crete and named for a com­pa­ny I’ve nev­er heard of. Twen­ty min­utes be­fore face-off, the con­course is as placid as Penn Sta­tion on a Sun­day morn­ing. The ce­leb­rity politi­cian walks a few feet ahead of the rest of us. He car­ries him­self with a full and right­ful ex­pec­ta­tion that peo­ple will rec­og­nize him, and he greets any­one that meets his glance. “Thank you for your serv­ice, sen­a­tor,” many say. He gets this a lot, he says, “usu­ally right be­fore they un­load on me.”

In the el­e­va­tor, we meet a big, hand­some guy in a suit who looks like a hock­ey player and, sure enough, turns out to be an in­ac­tive mem­ber of the Flames. Mc­Cain asks him where he’s from. Min­neso­ta. “Where are you from?” he asks Mc­Cain. “Oh, I’m sort of from all over,” Mc­Cain tells him. When the player gets off the el­e­va­tor and I men­tion to Mc­Cain that the guy had no idea who he was, the sen­a­tor seems slight­ly amused and even a bit dis­ori­ent­ed. “It hap­pens some­times,” he says.

The seats are about half filled, and the arena is quiet enough dur­ing the game to hear the play­ers shout­ing to each oth­er. Fans are pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly in­struct­ed to howl like Coy­otes, which Mc­Cain does in the same way he greets Wolf Blitzer. The home-team Bed­wet­ters beat the vis­it­ing Thumb­suck­ers 4-2, and Mc­Cain heads home hap­py, ex­cept when Cindy can’t find the postgame show on the ra­dio, and Jim­my is near­ly killing us again.

Not sure what the point of this profile is except that McCain loves life?  Certainly entertaining anyway.  This was interesting:

In his book about five Na­val Acad­emy grad­u­ates, “The Nightin­gale’s Song,”* the jour­nal­ist Robert Tim­berg de­scribed what Mc­Cain looked like af­ter two months of im­pris­on­ment — weigh­ing less than 100 pounds, with col­lapsed cheeks and at­ro­phied limbs. “His eyes, I’ll nev­er for­get,” Mc­Cain’s cell­mate, Bud Day, told Tim­berg. “They were bug-eyed like you see in those pic­tures from the Jew­ish con­cen­tra­tion camps. His eyes were re­al popeyed like that.”

Day, a dec­o­rated fight­er pi­lot, died in Ju­ly at age 88. “He was the bravest man I ever knew,” Mc­Cain said af­ter his death. He and Day had no­ta­ble dis­agree­ments over the years: Day was part of the Swift Boat Vet­er­ans for Truth, who cam­paigned against John Ker­ry in the 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Mc­Cain con­demned the group for their at­tacks against Ker­ry. “Like a lot of he­roes, ev­ery­thing was black and white with Bud,” he told me. “That’s how you sur­vive.”

In cap­tiv­i­ty, Mc­Cain said many of his fel­low P.O.W.s would search for omens that their re­lease was im­mi­nent. “Peo­ple would say, ‘Hey, there’s a car­rot in my soup, so that must mean we’re go­ing home,’ ” he said. “Bud used to say to them: ‘Right, guys. We’ll be go­ing home one day, but it sure as hell won’t be be­cause we found a car­rot in the damn soup.’

* highly recommended.



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