Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Portuguese Soft Drinks, and a Short Discussion about the NFL Preseason

     Recently I found myself in Danbury, Connecticut.  The local supermarket had something surprising--a Portuguese food section in their ethnic foods aisle.  So evidently Danbury has a fairly sizable Portuguese population, or at least a large number of people who enjoy their food.  Most of the selections were things I'd had before, such as canned seafood, but they did have some soft drinks I'd never sampled.
     Sumol + Compal, S.A. is a major soft drink manufacturer in Portugal.  The company, which is a combination of two smaller companies, also markets juices/nectar, water, and beer.  It primarily sells to European and Northern African countries.  Soda flavors include orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and mango.  I was able to locate the first two kinds.  (Update, May 24, 2017:  I found the pineapple version recently in Fall River, MA.  See below for rating.)
     The other drink I bought is a bit of a mystery.  The bottle says it's made by Kiki.  I wasn't able to discover much of anything about the company online, and the bottle only mentions it was manufactured for Miranda Imports, Inc.,, out of Massachusetts.  So that's all I have.  I tried the orangeade flavor, or "laranjada" in Portuguese.
     So here's my opinions, rated in the usual U.S. scholastic system.  "A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, and "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as necessary.

Kiki laranjada (orangeade): D-.  Orange color, came in a 12 ounce (355 ml.) bottle.  Really disappointing.  Very bland and dull.  Just a hint of orange taste.  Was it expired?  No expiration or "best by" date on bottle.

Sumol orange flavor: D.  Came in a huge, 1.5 liter bottle.  Has 10% orange juice and pulp.  Kind of like the Kiki, it was very dull and bland.  Just a hair better.  My father liked it, though.

Sumol passion fruit flavor: C+.  Is 6% juice, and came in a 330 ml. (11.15 ounce) can.  Yellow color.  Much better than the others.  Had a stronger taste.  Not strong overall, but improved.

Sumol pineapple flavor:  D.  Came in 330 ml. (11.15 ounce) can, and was 8% juice.  Light yellowish color.  Had pineapple flavor, but was unpleasantly sweet.  Rather cloying.  Not very good, once again.

     So, as you can see, I wasn't very impressed with the Portuguese soft drinks.  Even the one I liked was basically a tad better than average.  Obviously my main complaint is that these sodas didn't have very strong, distinctive tastes.  I wouldn't buy any of these again, except maybe the orange Sumol for my father.

     Switching topics, I'd also like to get into the NFL preseason a little, since it just started.  First off, the NFL doesn't like the term "exhibition games" even though that's exactly what they are.  Kind of like the recent trend in dealers calling them "pre-owned cars" instead of the more honest and direct, "used cars."  Up until the NFL was founded in 1920, there was no real agreement on what were "real" games and what were exhibition ones.  The pro teams of the era simply scheduled games with whatever teams they thought would get them a decent paying crowd.  In 1921, the NFL enacted a rule that only sanctioned games between members of the NFL constituted official games, and these then counted in the standings.  But, teams could, and did continue to play other non-NFL teams until the end of the 1930's, even though they didn't count.  Even during the regular season, during "bye weeks," or weeks where they weren't scheduled to play anyone.  Now, of course, this seems ridiculous--why risk injuries, during the season, for games that didn't count?  It was a different time.
     By 1960, the NFL and the competitor American Football League (AFL) both played a 14 game regular season and 4-5 preseason games.  Then, when the AFL and the NFL merged (in 1970, into an NFL with two conferences, the NFC and the AFC), every team started playing 14 regular season games and 6 preseason games.  This didn't last too long, though.  When the NFL expanded its regular season to 16 games, the preseason schedule dropped to 4 games for most teams, and a fifth for the two teams that played in the preseason debut "Hall of Fame" game.  Aside from 1999-2001, when an odd number of total teams (31) meant that a few more teams had to play a fifth preseason game, this has been the same up until the present.
     There was a weird exception to the typical NFL preseason from 1934-76.  The first preseason game used to be between a team of college all star players versus the defending NFL champion team.  The college players even won 9 of these, while losing 31 and tying twice (the 1974 game wasn't played due to the player's strike that preseason).  By 1977 this College All Star Game was discontinued, after concerns about rising insurance costs and the fear that college prospects would get injured before they could be drafted by the NFL.  A strange rule was made by the NFL in 1963 in response to author/journalist George Plimpton's immersive book about playing football, in which he practiced with the Detroit Lions at quarterback.  Journalists were barred from playing in the preseason (or in the regular season, I assume) when it became apparent that the Lions might actually do so.
     Clearly, preseason games aren't much a barometer for how well a team will do in the regular season.  Much of the action is played by men who won't even make the final squad, or if they do it will probably be in a reserve role.  Teams limit their regular season starters' time for the very realistic fear of injury in a game that doesn't mean anything.  Typically the 3rd preseason game (or 4th for the 2 teams that played in the Hall of Fame game) is the one where the starters play the most, usually 2-3 quarters.  So, if you're wondering which game is most significant to view, that's the one.  And to illustrate just how little the preseason does predict teams' success, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who had a perfect 17-0 season, lost 3 preseason games, and the 2008 winless (the only 0-16 team ever) Detroit Lions went 4-0 in that year's preseason.
     I'd end on some preseason game individual player records, but I couldn't find them (I didn't look especially hard, but still).  Apparently the NFL doesn't care much, and nor do the fans.  Including myself, really.  The NFL does, though, make season ticket holders pay for the 2 home preseason games a year as well as for the 8 regular season ones.  Several individual and class-action lawsuits haven't been able to change this.
     So, enjoy the completely unimportant August games.  Or don't.  At least the regular season starts pretty soon--September 8th sees a rematch of the previous Super Bowl participants (the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers), while the rest of the league starts on September 11th (or the 12th for the 4 teams playing in the first Monday Night games).

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