Bedwetters vs. ThumbsuckersPosted: December 22, 2013
From 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.