Alex Beam

The Bard or the Broncos?

photo illustration/globe staff

I perch, painfully, atop the horns of a dilemma.

This Sunday, at 3 p.m., the Most Important Football Game in the History of Our Solar System, Nay Our Galaxy, kicks off in Denver. This is Appointment Football, for which you disconnect the land line, throw the smartphones down the basement stairs, and pay someone to make the small children disappear.

As it happens, I have tickets for Sunday at 3 p.m. to see Mark Rylance perform in “Twelfth Night” in New York. Not only did a friend work hard to nail these seats, but I have always wanted to see “Twelfth Night,” ever since it was mentioned in the beautiful closing scene of “Shakespeare in Love.” (From the script: “A blank page. A hand is writing: TWELFTH NIGHT. We see WILL sitting at his table . . .”)


The Bard or the Broncos? These are the intractable choices we face. I’ve resolved this one, and I’ll share my thinking at the end of this column. But this dilemma seemed typical of other, excruciatingly difficult choices I am faced with almost every day. For instance:

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1. To (A) watch “Downton Abbey,” or (B) show up for my regularly scheduled colonoscopy. That’s easy! (B) God preserve us from this sterile, televised table-read droned out each week by actors whom Mark Rylance wouldn’t hire to record his phone messages.

Yes, I know something “happened” last week. Doesn’t that say it all, that an actual plot point in this platitudinous paint-drying exercise generates coast-to-coast excitement?

Plus there’s no way public television can compete with Propofol, the sedative of choice for a colonoscopy. Under its influence, I once proposed to a nurse in the recovery room. My wife was not amused.

2. Make (A) a sizeable donation to the Harlem Academy, or (B) throw the money away for a wasteful and pointless bathroom renovation. Anyone who’s ever been married knows the answer is (B) — there is no such thing as a “wasteful and pointless” bathroom redo. To be fair, we also donate to Harlem Academy.


3. (A) Celebrate the pagan “drum circle” at sunset on the beach in Nokomis, Fla., swilling beer and pounding on empty stewpots, or (B) hear Yale Divinity School professor Peter Hawkins expatiate on “The Psalms and their Literary Afterlife” in the basement (“the undercroft”) of Trinity Church on the Sunday after The Game?

January is looking to be a wonderful month; I’ll do both!

4. By way of chowing down, should I (A) patronize some foodie hellhole where the menu reeks of culinary Downton Syndrome, e.g., Assiette of Milk Fed Lamb; Sake Lees (also called Sake Kasu); Fricassee of Burgundy Escargot, or (B) go to Brookline’s Family Restaurant for killer Turkish food — pay by portion weight! — at reasonable prices.

(B), obviously.

5. Should I (A) read another novel by Mick Herron, author of the delightful, semi-thrilling novel “Dead Lions,” or (B) start the long march into the 698-page “Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T.S. Eliot, and the Long-Suppressed Truth About Her Influence on His Genius”?


I bought “Shadow” for 50 cents at a library sale because I admired the brazenly audacious subtitle. I’ve read a hundred pages or so, and I have to say Mick Herron is the crisper and more entertaining writer. So (A).

As for the Hobson’s Choice that launched this column, when Stephen Gostkowski’s toe touches the pigskin for the opening kickoff in Denver (assuming the Patriots win the coin toss), I hope to be firmly planted in my seat at the Belasco Theatre off Times Square, waiting for “Twelfth Night” to begin.

My thinking: I’ve seen the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning matchup before. But I’ve never seen “Twelfth Night,” and this looks like a golden opportunity. I’m sure you know the play. The curtain rises, the court musicians strike up a tune, and Duke Orsino kicks out the immortal line: “If music be the food of love, play on.”

As for the Patriots, they will have to win without me. This will be the 15th iteration of the Brady-Manning Bowl; As Falstaff says in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “I hope good luck lies in odd numbers.” Play on!

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at alexbeam@hotmail.com.