While pet-sitting for my boss on Saturday night I walked to the little pub a couple blocks over from her house. The pub’s got no windows and the customers have all grown up together, are constantly reminiscing about Old Miami, and I happen to’ve gotten there toward closing. I’m texting the person I just had a beer with in the Gables, I’m still not sure if it was a date, but it was a nice time and I don’t wanna text too much so in order to distract myself I set the phone down and end up talking with the owner, Sam, and two regulars. Older guys. One of them was a mascot for University of Miami in 2002.
So the bar closes and it’s just the four of us in there (apart from the bar tender tallying up receipts at a corner table). The guy who’d been a mascot for UM back in 2002 says to the owner, tipsy, “Hey, don’t close, just gimme sev—gimme six minutes, lemme run to my house, I’ll be right back and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before, something you’ll never see again. Swear to God. You’re not even gonna believe it exists.”
The owner, who’s just lit up a cigarette now that the doors are closed, makes a wheeling gesture with his smoking hand, motioning the guy to hurry up.
Dude runs out the back door.
The owner addresses me—only guy here who’s not a regular—and clarifies that this former mascot dude lives a block away.
So the owner and the other regular and I start talking about popular beers of the 1970s and ‘80s. I ask them both if they ever tried Billy Beer, the cheap stuff that was brewed and distributed by Jimmy Carter’s brother in the ‘70s.
Neither of them got a chance but they’re smiling hard to think back on it.
Owner says to me, though, “What people often forget is that beer cans back then were made of steel. So that scene in Animal House when Belushi crushes the can on his head—we look at it now and it’s hardly a joke. Back then, though, if you crushed a beer can on your head you were a bad motherfucker cuz that shit’d cut your face open.”
Former UM mascot comes busting in through the back door, outta breath. “Three minutes!”
The owner pulls on his cigarette and gives the guy a look like yeah congrats.
So the former mascot is holding something behind his back and he says, “OK. It’s 2002. I’m a mascot, I’m on the field…”
Lemme spare you the details. The broad strokes are these: University of Miami is playing a championship game against Ohio State. UM scores, confetti canons go off, people storm the field—it’s a mitzvah.
Then a ref undoes the call. It’s not a victory. The game is still on.
So, with the game back in session, Ohio State ends up scoring, and winning.
“I remember that,” says the owner, pulling on his cigarette with a pensive squint like he’s just remembered an old vendetta. He shakes his head. “I got so mad I smashed a bottle of Jack on the wall.”
I laugh at this. “Here at the bar?”
He smiles too, shrugs, “The wall in my house. I was having a party. Everyone flipped.”
“No but wait, listen…”
(Former mascot is still telling his story.)
What he’s got behind his back, the thing he ran home to grab for us, is a bag of corn chips.
Apparently the Tostito’s people had made two batches of bags, so that whoever won the championship would have their own commemorative bags to go home with.
When it looked like UM had won the game, the Tostito’s people ran out into the field and started tossing out bags for UM’s victory. Then the ref rescinded the call and the Tostito’s people scrambled to collect the bags.
This mascot guy got two of em, hid them away in a duffel bag, gave em to a friend to run off with.
When the game was over, the Tostito’s people gave out their Ohio State bags.
So these Tostito’s bags, commemorating a UM victory that technically never happened, all went, presumably, into an incinerator somewhere.
“This bag,” says the former mascot, holding it up in both hands like an artifact, “has never seen the light of day. There were hundreds or thousands just like it and not one of em ever made it to somebody’s house. This and the one I gave my friend are probably the only ones in existence.”
The other regular sitting here with us, an older gentleman who never got to try Billy Beer, says, “I don’t have anything interesting like that. I mean I do have—excuse me, no—I do have a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card.”
Former mascot shakes his head. “A Kareem Abdul—dude, this is way better than a rookie card.”
“Yeah, I’m just saying, in terms of collectibles—”
“This isn’t even a collectible, though. This is revisionist history.”