31 December 2012

On Romo and the Red Flag

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

Some great action to close out the NFL regular season yesterday. As has been the case the last few years, Week 17 delivered.

Among the highlights was the gripping contest between the ’Skins and Cowboys last night, which thanks to the Bears and Vikings both winning earlier in the day became a do-or-die game for both teams. When Washington took a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the momentum shifted decidedly. Even so, it almost seemed inevitable that Dallas would somehow cut it back to a one-score game and get the ball again, if only to perpetuate the drama a little further.

Sure enough, a long punt return followed by a short TD drive and two-point conversion by Dallas cut the ’Skins lead to three. And when the defense stepped up to deliver the ball back to Tony Romo and the offense with three-and-a-half minutes left, I think we all knew what was coming.

Disappointment for Dallas fans.

As they started the drive, I hastily composed a tweet...


I literally hit send just a heartbeat ahead of Romo fading back to loft that sad, doomed-from-the-start-looking floater that was sorta kinda in the direction of running back DeMarco Murray in the left flat. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson happily accepted the gift, and Romo had thrown his third interception of the night. And for the third time in the last five years, Dallas would soon lose a season-ending, win-or-go-home game. (They’re 2-12 overall in such games since 2000.)

As exciting as that game was, it was the fulfillment of expectations, really. But in the day’s other most exciting game, the thriller between Minnesota and Green Bay in which the Vikes won 37-34, there arose an occurrence I don’t think anyone watching could’ve anticipated.

With the score 27-17, Green Bay receiver James Jones caught a pass, crossed the goal line for a touchdown, then the ball popped out. The ruling on the field was a fumble recovered by Minnesota, but it was clear even before the first replay was shown that the call was likely going to be reversed and the Packers would be awarded a TD.

Even though all turnovers are automatically reviewed, Packers coach Mike McCarthy fired the red challenge flag onto the field anyway. We all remember what happened on Thanksgiving day when Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz did something similar on a crucial play in that game. That’s when we learned that the penalty for challenging a play that was already being reviewed was not just an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but a nullification of the review process.

In that instance, Schwartz challenged a play on which Houston returned a fumble for a touchdown -- a play that was clearly not a fumble at all, although the refs on the field ruled it as such. But since Schwartz threw the red flag, it couldn’t be reviewed, and thus his mistake gave the Texans an undeserved TD.

In yesterday’s game, McCarthy’s heaving of the red flag appeared at first as though it would have similarly unfortunate consequences for his team, nullifying the review, taking away the score, and giving the ball to the Vikings on the 20-yard line following the touchback. Packers receiver Jordy Nelson certainly anticipated such a possibility when he quickly scooped the red flag off the turf and clutched it against his stomach, hoping to hide it before anyone noticed:

image

But as it happened, McCarthy’s challenge did not prove damaging. It was explained that since his challenge came after the announcement that a review was already being conducted, Green Bay would only be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct (a 15-yard penalty ultimately assessed on the ensuing kickoff), with the review -- and expected reversal of the call -- still allowed to proceed.

Beyond goofy, I thought. Why should the timing of an announcement of a review of the turnover make any difference whatsoever to McCarthy’s breaking the rule of challenging a play that he wasn’t allowed to challenge? And hell, why even announce at all that there will be a review of a play for which a review is already mandatory?

“So McCarthy threw the flag after a replay judge nobody can see initiated a review?” asked Grantland’s Bill Barnwell via Twitter at the time. “That's Illuminati stuff right there,” he added.

The whole thing seemed more than a little fishy. I looked over the 2012 Official Rules and Casebook of the National Football League in search of an explanation, and wasn’t at all surprised to see nothing at all regarding the timing of such announcements mattering one iota. Here’s the relevant section, under Section 9 (“Instant Replay”):


You have to squint to see, I know, but right in the middle there is the reference to the 15-yard penalty for initiating a challenge when a team is prohibited from doing so. Just above, in the “Coaches Challenge” paragraph, comes the explanation that “If there is a foul that delays the next snap, the team committing that foul will no longer be able to challenge the previous ruling.” That covers situations in which coaches try to challenge plays when out of challenges, or when they try challenge plays like turnovers or touchdowns that are already reviewed. That’s where Schwartz “fouled” up in the earlier game between Detroit and Houston (pun intended).

But there’s nothing referring to the meaningfulness of the order of events should a coach throw the challenge flag on a play in which a review is already automatically taking place. I’m convinced the league decided it didn’t like all the “what-a-dumb-rule” fallout that came following the Thanksgiving game, and thus told refs going forward to invoke this bogus, new interpretation of the rule to avoid any repeat instances.

As all of this was happening, I couldn’t help but think back to Green Bay’s having gotten royally screwed back in Week 3 by the infamous “Fail Mary” replacement-refs debacle versus Seattle. Here was a little recompense, I supposed. In any event, the Vikes went on to win and thus ensure that the whole incident would be reduced to a bit of trivia, adding just a little more intrigue to an already thrilling contest.

With no dogs in any of these fights -- I’m a Panthers fan, cautiously optimistic about my team winning five of its last six to give us something to hope for in 2013 -- I can say I enjoyed it all immensely. And am looking forward to the playoffs with a similarly unblinkered perspective, primarily hoping to be entertained by still more drama.

Shamus is the author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog.

30 December 2012

The NFL’s Strength of Schedule

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

Today brings us Week 17 of the National Football League, the last week of the regular season.

The NFL is by no means perfect, and certainly is capable of screwing up now and again (e.g., replacement refs). But if there’s one thing the league currently gets right, it’s Week 17.

Starting in 2010, the NFL adjusted its schedule so that all games played on the final weekend of the regular season would be divisional contests, the idea being that doing so would increase the likelihood of games affecting teams’ qualification and/or seeding for the playoffs.

I think it might have been the 2009 Indianapolis Colts who helped inspire the idea, actually. Recall how that year the 14-0 Colts decided to rest their starters for their final two games (versus the Jets and Bills), losing both to finish 14-2? The games didn’t matter to Indy, as they’d already clinched the AFC’s top seed. But the Jets benefited significantly by their win, as it helped them squeak into the playoffs and ultimately make it all of the way to the AFC Championship -- where, as it happened, they’d lose to the Colts.

Making all of the last week’s regular season games divisional games wouldn’t necessarily prevent such a scenario from reoccurring, but it certainly does help make the final weekend more interesting. Since every team in each four-team division plays each other twice, every game today is a rematch. And in most cases a “rivalry” game, too. And when the races are tight, the games tend to have playoff implications as well.

Actually this year only two of the 12 playoff spots are still unclaimed. Even so, thanks to the scheduling, more than half of today’s 16 games have playoff implications.



In the AFC, the six playoff spots have all been taken already, although the outcomes of today’s games will determine seeding for the top three spots. Houston, Denver, and New England are all vying to land one of the top two seeds and a first-round playoff bye, while Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis have already won their way into wild-card games next week.

Meanwhile over in the NFC, Atlanta has the No. 1 seed already secured, while Green Bay, Seattle, and San Francisco all have playoff spots locked up but are today fighting for seeding. Then there are five teams still with a shot at the last two spots -- Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, Washington, and the New York Giants.

There are other thoughtful elements in play here, including the fact that everyone finishes their season today (i.e., there is no Monday Night Football this week), ensuring all teams in playoff games next week have an equal amount of time to rest and prepare. And thanks to “flex” scheduling, the night game (Cowboys at Redskins) is perhaps the most compelling, as it will likely be the case that only the winner of that one will earn a playoff berth. (The Skins could still make it with a loss, but only if both the Vikings and Bears lose earlier in the day.)

In fact, the whole formula by which the NFL schedule is constructed is kind of a marvel, the way it ensures teams not only play every other divisional team twice, but rotates games versus other teams, too, as well as incorporates a kind of “balancing” (in theory) in which the better teams get tougher schedules while the teams with the worst records get easier ones the following year. Here’s a quick breakdown of the scheduling “formula,” if you’re curious.

If I’m reading the playoff scenarios correctly, it looks like 10 of today’s 16 games “matter” in some fashion. Although even those that don’t -- e.g., Panthers at Saints, Browns at Steelers, heck, even the Jets at Bills -- will still likely be competitive and thus provide some entertainment for viewers.

There has been rumbling over the last few years about expanding the regular season even further to 18 games, although that seems unlikely to happen. Here’s hoping the NFL resists mucking with what seems to me one of its greatest strengths -- its well-conceived schedule.

Shamus is the author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog.

28 December 2012

Week 17 Betting Preview: Dallas at Washington

By Pauly
New York City


The excitement builds during the final week of the NFL regular season because several teams are jockeying for spots in the postseason. The Dallas Cowboys (8-7 SU and 6-9 ATS) take on the Washington Redskins (9-6 SU and 10-5 ATS) in an intense matchup that will be as close to a playoff game as possible. The bottom line is this: whoever wins the game will win the NFC East division title and secure a spot in the playoffs. The loser is in deep trouble. Dallas must win outright if they want to advance to the playoffs. If Washington loses to Dallas, then they need losses by both Chicago and Minnesota to sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. A victory for Washington also gives them the #4 seed and a coveted home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington’s rookie sensation Robert Griffin III (a.k.a. RG3) has quickly become one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL, but RG3 leads a young squad that lacks postseason experience. Tony Romo and several of his Dallas teammates hold a significant edge in playoff experience, whereas Washington has failed to make the playoffs since 2007. The last twenty years have not been kind to Redskins fans. Since 1992, Washington has only advanced to the postseason three times (1999, 2005 and 2007) with only two playoff victories in five games.

In their only meeting this season, Washington beat Dallas 38-31 on Turkey Day, but Dallas’s RB DeMarco Murray was sidelined with a foot injury. Dallas is seeking revenge but they’ll have to win on the road in Washington. Dallas is a weird team which is why there’s been a popular trend this season to bet them when they are a dog, yet fade them whenever they are a favorite. However in this instance, it’s hard to fade Washington because they are a team on a mission and despite the injuries, RG3 has been getting better and better with every game.

In only 14 games, RG3 threw 20 TDs with only 5 INTs, but he also rushed for 6 more TDs. RG3 averages 6.6 yards per carry, but he has not scored a rushing touchdown since Week 6. RG3 returned to action last weekend after sitting out Week 15 with a knee injury, but insists that he’s 100% healthy and ready for Dallas.

Alfred Morris might be the most underrated RB in the league and the rookie is on pace to run for 1,500 total yards, which is impressive considering Morris was a virtual unknown talent who was listed as the #3 running back on most scouts’ depth charts before the season started. Morris gains 4.7 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns with only 4 fumbles.

Good thing that Washington is loaded with offensive weapons because their secondary is weak. Their overall defense is ranked #26 with opponents racking up 383 yards a game against them. Washington’s biggest liability is their porous pass defense, which gives up almost 290 yards in the air. However, their run defense is their biggest strength. They are ranked #7 in the NFL, allowing under 95 yards per game on the ground.

Dallas seems to live and die by the arm of Tony Romo. This season, Romo threw 26 TDs but also has 16 INTs. In the last five games, Dallas is 4-1 and Romo has only 1 INT. When Romo has a bad game with multiple interceptions this season, Dallas is 0-3. Here’s a weird stat… Dallas is 0-3 when Romo throws for 400+ yards, including the Washington game on Turkey Day. Although Romo torched Washington’s secondary for 3 TDs, he also coughed the ball up twice that game.

Dallas needs DeMarco Murray to have a big game on the ground. Murray scored a touchdown in three out of the four games he played since returning from a foot injury. However, Murray only has 25 combined rushes in the last two games. Dallas has to get him involved more with the offense to help take pressure off of Romo.

Dallas’ defense is ranked #15 in points allowed, but they are #7 in yards per game (allowing only 318). Their passing D is ranked #6 in the NFL, allowing only 214 yards/game. It’s significantly better than their rushing D which is ranked #13, but they only allow 106 yards/game. Even though their defense looks good on paper, both RG3 and Alfred Morris gave them problems when they met earlier in the season.

If Dallas is going to win... Tony Romo must limit his turnovers and not throw any INTs, especially in the Red Zone. Dallas’ defense is solid but they occasionally give up the big play, which has hurt them this season. Dallas’s D must contain RG3 and figure out how to prevent Alfred Morris from having a big game. Dallas gets around 2.2 sacks per game, but they have to put even more pressure on RG3 and knock him down as much as possible.

If Washington is going to win... RG3 must continue to do what’s he’s been doing… wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. Washington must get Alfred Morris the ball early and establish their running attack. When Morris gets 18 or fewer carries, Washington is 1-5. When Morris gets 20 or more carries, Washington is 8-1. On defense, Washington is great against the run, but they struggle against good passers. Washington’s D must hunker down in the second half and get ready to fend off any late-game heroics from Romo.

Pauly’s Pick: Washington MONEYLINE... It’s going to be a close game. Washington wins but I don’t like giving up the hook at -3.5. Washington is riding a six-game winning streak and proved to everyone in the NFL that RG3 is indeed the real deal, but more importantly, even without RG3, they can still squeak out a win. During their six-game winning streak, Washington’s average margin of victory was 10 points (averaging 30.3 points per game yet only giving up 20.3). How about some spiffy stats? Washington is 6-0 ATS in their last six overall games and 4-1 ATS in their last five home games. They are also 4-0 ATS against teams with a winning record. Meanwhile, Dallas is 7-15 ATS in their last 22 games overall. Washington has a tough time holding onto leads, while Dallas often gets off to a slow start and then waits until he second half to mount a comeback. You might want to look into a first half or a first quarter wager on Washington. In their previous meeting this season, Washington blew a 28-3 halftime lead while Tony Romo spearheaded a 28-point second half performance. Although Dallas ran out of gas and lost 38-31, they clearly dominated Washington in the second half.

27 December 2012

Play Ball

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

The first sports memory I can pin down in my brain—and let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: my brain is not entirely reliable. We can blame the '80s for that—is of Fred Merkle, he of the infamous “Merkle’s Boner.” I’m going to wager a large part of this is the use of the word “Boner.”

I grew up in the ‘70s, the 1970s smart-asses, and sports were consumed in an entirely different way back then. I learned of Fred Merkle via something called a “book,” a large thing that frequently sat on our coffee table and contained an extensive history of baseball. I was fascinated by the story, even a bit skeptical. But that wasn’t all. The ’27 Yankees were in there, the Gas House Gang, Roberto Clemente. There was no You Tube to pull up to catch a glimpse of the great Clemente’s arm, just that picture in the book of him in full follow-thru, the ball a white blur.

Although sports were not as accessible as today, the youthful nut in me had no problem feeding my addiction. I basically learned to add by reading the daily box scores. We had a record album (also referred to as an LP—for “long-player”—and was something that was relevant in the ‘70s) that contained popular radio calls of the Swingin’ A’s of 1972-74. I had my Dad, who regaled me with stories of John Brodie and old Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. I had the radio, where I listed to Stanford football games and Warriors basketball games and, yes, the A’s, with whom I fell in love on long lazy summer nights.

Sports for me were an oral tradition, passed down from not just my Dad, but my grandfather—still around at a robust 93 years of age—who lives and breathes the St. Louis Cardinals. He told me of Stan The Man and Bob Gibson and, in later years, how overrated Tony LaRussa is. Before that, though, baseball was baseball rarely on TV, even the local teams. The Game of the Week and the playoffs. That was pretty much it. We had to recreate the action in our heads from these tales of our elders, from recaps in the newspaper (this is also something that was pertinent in the 1970s) or envision it via the calls from our hometown broadcasters. And the greatest thing of all, the jewel of everything, was being able to go to the stadium to see games live. I remember pestering my father for months to take me to a specific ballgame, roughly from the day the schedule came out until the day he relented and took me to see Carl Yastrzemski play.

It’s different now. My own son, AJ, comes home from school and goes to the computer to set his fantasy lineup. Between obsessing over Minecraft videos, he goes online to see highlights of the previous night’s games, not just the A’s, but all the games. There is nothing that can’t be found. When I tell him of the great feats of my childhood heroes, he runs right to the keyboard to watch those long-ago highlights, like when I showed him “The Catch,” the first ever sporting event that made me cry tears of joy. His response? “Terrible graphics.”

On the other hand, sports are exactly the same. A couple years ago, for AJ’s birthday, he wanted me to take him to see Josh Hamilton play, which I happily did. And on some nights, he can be found upstairs on his bed, flipping through Sports Illustrated’s “Baseball Book,” a big, thick glossy coffee table number not unlike the one where I learned about “Merkle’s Boner.” That story, in fact, is in there, too.
             
This is what sports means to me at it’s base. There are incompetent umpires/officials, dirty cheaters, mercurial producers, legends, journeymen, role players. And they all have a place in my brain, where I sometimes spit them out to my son, so we can share that. Now, I’ll spit some out to you, too.

26 December 2012

J.R. Smith Buzzer Beater and Christmas Hoops

By Pauly
New York City

The NBA scheduled five games on Christmas starting at noon ET with Boston/Brooklyn and ending with the Nugs/Clippers at 10pm PT. That’s 13 hours of basketball the suits at Disney spread out over ABC and ESPN. The  only thing they could’ve done better? 24 hours of Christmas hoops!

I can’t think of a better Christmas tradition than basketball. Seriously. I’m not joking. Turkey Day is synonymous with the NFL. New Year’s Day used to be all college football bowls (pre-BCS). But these days, the NBA has been quick to seize the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to showcase the league on the most self-indulgent and consumer-driven holidays in Western Civilization.

When I was a kid, the Knicks played a game at MSG on Christmas day. Tip off was at noon. My old man always took my brother and I to Christmas Day games, which was always the highlight of my Christmas break.

Over the last decade or so, the NBA experimented with a doubleheader on Christmas, then a triple header, then a quadruple-header, until they reached the pinnacle of over-saturation with a quintent-header. Or is it quint-header? Is that right? Is that even a proper term? Quint-header? 

Five NBA games. We had action on two. One of them was the Knicks game taking on the Lakers at noon PT. Actually we were fading the Lakers more so than betting the Knicks on the road. The worst part of the game? The bright orange uniforms that made the Knicks look like they were from a prison league, or had lost their traditional blue uniforms and asked the Phoenix Suns to borrow their bright orange threads.

The Knicks blew a double digit lead and got hosed on a few calls. Heck, their two prior games featured some of the worst officiating I had seen this year in the NBA, so it wasn’t too surprising to see the Knicks get whooped with the shit-stick in L.A. after a horrid display of one-sided adjudication by the zebras.
 
The worst part? Down 6 and getting +3.5, the Knicks got off a last second shot. J.R. Smith dribbled down the sideline and fired a three-pointer… only to rattle out as the buzzer sounded. Had he sunk the uncontested trey, the Knicks would have lost by 3 and we would have squeezed out one hell of a backdoor cover. Alas, J.R. Smith failed to connect in what was otherwise a meaningless shot.
 
We made only one other wager on Christmas… the OVER in Houston/Chicago. The public is well aware of the low scoring trend that the defensive-minded Chicago Bulls created over the first quarter of the season. The bookies are aware that the public has woken up and they have been setting better and sharper totals. Now’s the time to start betting the over in Bulls games if the price is right. We liked what we were getting with the uptempo Rockets. The Rockets coasted to a 120-97 victory as Harden, Asik, Parsons, and Linsanity all scored at least 20 points.
 
Christmas ended with at 1-1. Typical for us this year.  It seems like we’re struggling to keep our head above water.
 
The day after Christmas was a whole new opportunity to go on one last big NBA bender before I took the rest of the year off. I liked 6 NBA games and it turned out that one — Bulls at Pacers — would get cancelled by a snowstorm.
 
Wednesday NBA Sweat: Milwookie -2.5, ATL -7.5, Cavs +1, GSW +4.5, and Blazers -6.5

We made five plays and won four games, missing the other game by a single point. Damn Hawks blew a huge lead against the Detroit Piss-stains, who forced not one but two overtimes. The Hawks got a rare chance to pull away with a decent lead late in the second OT. They went up 8 with under a minute to go. However, the finished the game with just a seven-point margin of victory. Such a heart-breaker.
 
That was the only bad beat of the night. We went 4-0 with the rest of the games, which was exactly what we needed… to end the year on a positive note.
 
The biggest win? The Cavs beating the Wiz in a close, yet ugly game. How bad are the Wiz? So bad that we actually bet the Cavs.

Milwookie did not have any problems with Brooklyn, mainly because DeRon Williams sat out the game and the Nets looked lost at times on offense.
 
Golden State prevailed once again and picked off Utah in Utah, which is tough considering the zebras usually give the Jazz a lot of gratuitous calls on their home turf in Mormonland.

The Blazers jumped out to a double digit lead against the Cousins-less Kings, and extended it to 20 in the 4Q. Easy win for the Blazers. That game pushed us to 4-1 for the night and 5-2 since Christmas.

The biggest shot of the night? J.R. Smith drilled a buzzer beater in Phoenix. One night after he missed a “meaningless” jumper to potential help Knicks backers with a heroic cover, J.R. Smith lifted the Knicks as they defeated the Suns. It wasn’t pretty and the Knicks fell behind after playing sloppy ball. Melo sat out with a bum knee and the Knicks relied on veterans like Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd, and J.R. Smith to step up on the second night of a back-to-back. J.R. Smith hit a clutch three in crunch time to keep the Knicks in the game and with one second on the clock, he got the job done with a fade away jumper...


Knicks beat Los Sols and flee the desert with a last-second victory to improve to 1-1 on the beginning of a three-game quickie West Coast swing. Next stop... Sacramento.

What an awesome way to end a fun night. Yeah, it’s always fun when you go 4-1 and watch your favorite team win a game at the buzzer.

Looks like we’re taking the rest of the year off. I have a couple of NFL games in Week 17 that I’m targeting and I have an over bet on Baylor/UCLA (only college BOWL bet), but aside form that, I’m taking a week or so off from the sports betting grind. I shall return in 2013, or in a week or so, for some more daily NBA action.

24 December 2012

Week 16 Weirdness and Seachickens Sink Niners

By Pauly
New York City

Week 16 is always a weird week in the NFL’s 17-week season. It’s the beginning of the end for more than half of the teams, while the other half are either vying for a playoff berth or gearing up for a Super Bowl run.

The double digit point spread reflected the simple fact that several games were not going to be competitive and a few teams were liable to “phone it in” during the last two weeks of the season. The bookies set spreads in four games at 10 or higher, while 8 games featured spreads of 3.5 or lower.

Out of the potential blow out games, only one game was close… Jags/Pats… which was 23-16. Most denizens of New England are aware that Brady and company don’t always cover monstah-spreads of 10 or higher, yet most of the gamblers in New England were wicked pissed that Pats failed to cover the OVER total. The Pats were destroying overs all season, which meant that both pro bettors and  donk-bet local punters were cleaning up on Pats totals.

After 16 weeks, we finally stayed true to our “less is more” mantra and only bet one three games. of course, we’re still somewhat dense and have yet to stop betting totals because we’re under .500 for the season on NFL totals, while we continued to improve upon our ATS run.

Week 16 NFL Sweat: Atlanta -3.5, Washington -6.5 and -4, and UNDER 40.5 SF/Seachickens

This week did not feature a Thursday or Monday game. The overlords at the NFL decided that they did not want to air a game on Christmas Eve (and subsequent New Year’s Eve), so they moved “Monday Night Football” to Saturday, so we had our first Saturday game of the season.

Atlanta flew up to Detroit to take on the whipping boys of the NFC… the inept Detroit Lions. If you’re from the Big D, you got spoiled by the World Series run from the Tigers. But the rest of Detroit’s pro sports teams are in disarray… the Piss-stains are one of the worst (and least exciting) teams in the NBA and despite the fact that the Lions have the best WR in all of football in Megatron, they can’t figure out how to score touchdowns.

I’m from the school of thought that Atlanta is one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL that only has 2 losses this late in the season. However, I still think they are one of the Top 4 teams in the NFC and ranked near the bottom of our Top 10 Power Ratings. However, we weren’t backing Atlanta on Saturday as much as we were fading Detroit. After getting their arses handed to them by a shittacular Arizona squad, we were floored that the line was -3.5. It should have been at least -6 and closer to a TD.

Atlanta opened up a 21-6 lead and the closest Detroit got was 21-13 in the 3Q before Atlanta slammed the door in the 4Q. Even though the game was in Detroit, Matty Ice is money indoors in dome situations. Matty Ice only threw 279 compared to Stafford’s 443, but his yardage was more efficient and led to scores, whereas Stafford racked up junk-yards.

Megatron finally broke Jerry Rice’s record and he has a legit shot at being the first player to pass 2,000 receiving yards which is astonishing considering he’s doing it on the Lions and only has a handful of touchdowns. I mean, how do you have one of the Top 5 greatest all-time receivers, yet you’re unable to get him the ball in the endzone? Detroit shuts down whenever they get the ball in the Red Zone. It’s sort of like Kryptonite for Megatron.

We double up on Atlanta because we knew it would be one of the few games we took all weekend. Felt good to get out to a big start for the week.

Sunday morning was a little weird. For one, I was on the East Coast so waking up at the crack of dawn is much harder because I had at least 6 hours to kill versus only 3 or so when I’m on the Left Coast. On a positive note, I watched all the games at my brother’s apartment, but I was slightly out of my usual routine which included sweating lines and keeping tabs on last minute injury updates.

We added Washington -4 because the line moved at least two points over night. It was a little startling to see -4 when I woke up, but we jumped on it before the line moved (it dipped as low as -3.5 in some spots). We had loaded up two plays on Washington -4 and -6.5. As long as they beat Philly by a TD, we were golden.

Philly scored a quick TD and we were down 7-0. Yikes. That really killed the vibe of the afternoon. It was supposed to be a festive weekend with my brother and company in the Bronx, yet Philly sucked all the air out of the room. Washington scored 13 in the 2Q and led 13-10 at halftime. They added two more TDs in the 3Q and improved to 27-13. Philly put up a fight in the 4Q and Andy Reid was doing everything to save face and win his last ever home game in Philly. The Eagles had the ball on the final possession and Foles marched them down the field and got into the Red Zone, but Washington’s defense stepped up and thwarted a comeback. Philly lost 27-20 and we cashed both tickets. Wooooooooooooo!

We were 2-0 officially for Week 16 after hitting a big bet fading the Lions on Saturday and two bets fading the Eagles. We had only one game left… the UNDER in the battle of the NFC West. San Francisco/Seattle. I lived in each of those cities and adored both. I’m considering bailing from being a lifelong Jets fan and entertained the idea of rooting for the Seachickens or Niners. Since I lived in Seattle longer than San Francisco, I was leaning towards the Seachickens.

On paper, the Niners looked slightly better on a neutral site. But the game was in Seattle, which is one of the loudest places in the NFL. I caught the Jets game earlier in the year and it was deafening loud. Holy shit. My ears were ringing for a couple hours after the game. I’m someone who has seen thousands of rock-like live shows and my ears are used to taking a pounding, but the Seachickens’ fans are rabid and boisterous.

The Seachickens forced the Niners into a quick three and out. Marshawn Lynch scored on the ensuing drive. Seattle got off to a 7-0 lead and never looked back. With the score 14-3, the Niners were about to kick a FG after failing to covert a TD in the Red Zone. However, the Seachickens blocked a chip shot then ran it back for a TD. That was the game right there. Had the Niners nailed the FG, they would only be down by 8 points versus staring into the abyss of a 21-3 blowout.

The over almost hit in the first half and everyone else that buried the under were left with their dicks flapping in the wind. That blown under killed whatever chance we had at a perfect week. Sure 2-1 is still profitable, but it would have been a nice way to kick off the Christmas holiday with a big weekend in the NFL.

The worse thing that happened? Another ugly Jets loss. The O-line gave up 11 sacks. Yeah, the poor rookie got his ass shoved to the ground more than he had hoped for. Tebow also didn’t take a single snap. Rex went with Kerley to run wildcat plays. Rumors suggested Tebow asked to sit out. Who knows what really happened, except that Kerley looked damn good in the wildcat.

image

BTW, why was Sanchez wearing his helmet the entire game? He was benched and never going to see any daylight?

23 December 2012

High Altitude Tilt and Seasonal Family Blues

By Pauly
New York City

I had no where to pace. That would be deemed suspicious behavior at 30,000 feet. As much as everyone else was zoning out to their individual TV screens, no one wants to see someone frantically walk and up and down the aisle on a JetBlue flight from LAX to JFK.

I was in the middle of my flight home for the holidays. OKC played the Timberwolves. The line was OKC -3. Seemed too good to be true. The public was overvaluing the absence of Kevin Martin for OKC and the return of Ricky Rubio from a knee injury. He wasn’t 100% and not even starting, yet the line was much lower than I and HAL420 expected. We were all in accordance that OKC was the play. It was one of three games that night and I had the added bonus of viewing the game because JetBlue offered up free Direct TV and OKC/Minny was the Game of the Week on TNT.

My flight was packed. Not an empty seat anywhere. Fucking spoiled rotten princesses took their pets with them. A purse dog in the row behind me and a cat in the row adjacent from me. I could hear the constant “meows” from the scared-shitless cat, while I was lucky the purse dog owner knocked out her pooch. Then again the pets were the least of my problem… it was the slew of kids on the flight. One baby a few rows behind us dropped several stink bombs on the journey over middle America. It really reeked like shit for the entire flight after that tiny little angelic baby had multiple assplosions that infected the entire cabin.

Then you had the bratty kids who couldn’t sit still. I know… I know… that’s what kids do but when you’re losing a game you bet on and have no where to walk off your anxiety, even the most adorable kid is a hellcat ready to get drawn and quartered.

The waif-like woman next to me kept going to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. I was convinced she was 1) throwing up food, or 2) doing blow. She could never settle on a single channel (out of 35 available choices via Direct TV) and would constantly change the channel like clockwork every 3 seconds. She’d stop after fifteen minutes, tap me on the shoulder and apologize for having to go the the toilet yet again, then disappear for a few minutes, return to her seat and run through the channels nonstop for fifteen minutes before she politely tapped me on the shoulder and apologized for having to use the toilet.

OKC got off to a horrid start and trailed by a dozen early on. They kept the T-Wolves in check the rest of the night, but could never make up that early deficit. Westbrook and Durant combined for 63 but they shot 21-49 and only connected on 2 three-balls. Kevin Love had another one of those MVP-like nights with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He also took a helluva shot to the face during a skirmish for a loose ball.

I lost the game and nothing worse is tilting hard with a bunch of annoying folks on my flight. Usually if I’m having a bad run in Vegas, I can go for a walk or retreat to my room. At home, I can go int my office and listen to music or sit on my couch and rip bong hits to calm down. But when you’re hurtling through the air and lose a bet, you’re stuck having to deal with the harsh reality of losing.
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

Things got really ugly on Friday night. It was the beginning of some nasty family stuff and I was not in the best head space. I had limited time to handicap (more like zero time) games and I was not in the best shape to make financial decisions, yet I fired away on a few games (Knicks -6 and Atlanta -2) and a poorly constructed chalk-teaser (GSW -5.5, SA -9, Clippers -8.5.). I was unprepared and piss off… both are serious infractions in trying to maintain self-discipline. I guess the only positive thing to come out of the incident was that I learned a valuable lesson. Actually, I learned two.  I got a harsh reminder that sports betting requires concentration and a cool demeanor.
Wisdom of the Ocelot
Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you need to take a breezy and lackadaisical approach to picking games. Even if it’s the holidays or a family vacation, you need to dedicate the same amount of time as you would on a usual day of handicapping.
Yeah, sometimes you need to spend even more time doing your homework when you’re away from your office/home base because you might not have all of the same resources at your finger tips.

And I also learned this valuable gem about picking games in haste…
Wisdom of the Ocelot
When you get stressed out by family matters, you often get thrown for a loop and operating at non-optimal levels. Take some time to cool down and get your head screwed on straight before you make a bet during the holidays or while on vacation.
Friday night was ugly. We whiffed on both games. The Knicks got their asses handed to them by the Bulls. They were down 15 at the half and failed to mount a comeback in the 4Q. The Hawks? Decimated by the Sixers. Not even close.

The chalk-teaser featured a fade of the Bobkittens. The Warriors whooped the Bobkittens. We shoulda bet them straight up instead of being a wuss. The Clippers man-handled the Kings and covered outright, which was another gut punch because we didn’t have to tease them down to win. With two out of three legs locked up, it came down to the Spurs. Those damn Spurs beat the lowly Hornets by five but failed to cover -9. Boooooooooooo.

I made a poor choice. I wasn’t thinking straight and instead of sticking with the Clippers and Warriors to win outright, I teased them with the Spurs. The third wheel killed us and sunk our hopes of a profitable Friday. Instead, we went 0-3 with one blown teaser and two floating turds.

Saturday was redemption day. We grinded out a small profit in the NBA and a hefty profit on “Monday Night Football on Saturday Night”, but it could have been a monster day if it weren’t for the damn Lakers.

We went 1-0 in the NFL (Atlanta -3.5 was a cake walk) and 3-2 in the NBA. We lost one game in overtime which was the difference between 4-1 and 3-2.

Saturday NBA Sweat: Det -1, ATL -3.5, Mem +1, Indy -3.5, and GS -1

Memphis lost to the Rockets. They got blown out actually. After staying with the high-flying rockets in the 1Q, the Griz slacked off in the 2Q and trailed by 10 at halftime. The Rockets opened the lead to 16 by the end of 3Q, and slammed the door in the 4Q. The Griz couldn’t hit any treys and Harden dropped 31 on 9-13 shooting.


Atlanta, Indy, and Detroit all won. We were fading the Wiz and backed the Piss-Stains, which was a rare move yet it paid off dividends. We were 3-1 heading into the final game… Lakers/Warriors.

The Lakers were thrilled to have the triumphant return of Steve Nash, the only player who can make any sense out of D’Antoni’s offense. Nash back in the lineup gave the pro-Laker public another reason to back an already inflated team. Alas, it was the perfect set up for the Warriors to waltz right in and steal one from the Lakers. Even though GSW was in command for most of the game, they choked and blew a 14-point lead in the 4Q as Kobe led the Lakers back in a crazy game that headed into OT. When the dust settled, Kobe scored 34 points and led the Lakers to a 118-115 overtime victory. Damn Warriors couldn’t put the Lakers away in crunch time. The Lakers played awful too for 90% of that game. They got hot at the right time and caught Golden State with their pants around their ankles.

The Lakers loss and GSW choke killed our chances of a big night. As is… we settled on a 3-2 NBA evening. Small profit and  it’s 1000% better than the winless streak from the previous two nights. In the end, we learned a valuable lesson about making wagers while in the middle of a hellacious family interlude.

Word to the wise… if you’re on life tilt because of stress induced by family holidays, then you should not make a bet.

22 December 2012

Ode to The Sporting News

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

One summer when I was 10 or 11, my grandfather offered me a choice. He’d come for his weekly visit, and on the way had stopped by a convenience store to pick up copies of the latest issues of various sports publications. I know he had copies of Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, and I believe there might have been a copy of SPORT in there, too.

The choice I was being offered was to pick which publication I liked the best, and Grandpa would give me a year’s subscription. My birthday is in June, and I’m thinking the offer must have been connected to that. I was choosing my birthday gift.

I remember taking a lot of time with the decision, perhaps a whole week until his next visit. SPORT seemed like it was mostly pictures and it might have been a monthly. And Sports Illustrated had these long features about people or sports I wasn’t really into at the time. Both felt like magazines I’d probably be done with in an hour or two.

Meanwhile The Sporting News seemed more focused on straightforward reporting from the week’s games, with lots of team-based reports, cool-looking stat-filled sidebars, and a busy classified section that further intrigued my childhood self.



The fact that it was printed as a thick newspaper rather than a glossy magazine appealed to me as well. It just seemed like there was more stuff there to occupy me for a whole week until the next issue came. And it all seemed more serious, too. Sort of like the difference between The Wall Street Journal and People or Time, if that makes sense.

But it was one other distinguishing factor that really sealed the decision for me. The box scores. TSN ran box scores of every baseball game played during the previous week. And I loved baseball and numbers and all that one could find hidden in baseball’s box scores, even then when really all there was from each batter was “AB R H BI” and each pitcher “IP H R ER BB SO.”

So I chose TSN. And when the issues started to arrive, I knew I’d made the right choice. Kept on getting it for the next several years, even after the point where my interest in baseball began to wane somewhat thanks to various factors (the explosion of free agency, the completion of puberty, etc.). I also would order copies of the Baseball Register and Baseball Guide several times out of the back, as well as some of the other annual publications TSN put out that provided still more opportunities to pore over numbers as one followed a given sport.

Can’t say I’d really paid much attention to The Sporting News over the last couple of decades, although I would pick up a special preview issue for college basketball or baseball every now and then. I did notice the change from newspaper to a glossy magazine format a few years back. In 2006 it was bought by a company based here in Charlotte, actually, and soon thereafter publication went from weekly to bi-weekly (in 2008), then just once a month (in 2011).

About a week ago came the news that TSN was stopping its print publication altogether, following the path of other longtime newsstand staples like Newsweek to go entirely digital. There will still be a few of those sport-specific preview issues on the stands here and there, but essentially the end has arrived for the print version of the 126-year-old publication.

Hearing the news about The Sporting News inspired me to think about my experience with -- and love of -- the publication many years ago. Looking back, I’ll admit that I was probably initially swayed by what appeared to be a greater quantity of information provided by TSN, not really considering (or being able to judge) the quality of the reporting and how it compared to that of other publications. Today I understand that in fact many highly regarded sportswriters were part of the rotating cast who helped fill the pages of TSN over the years, and that for much of the 20th century it genuinely earned its title of “The Bible of Baseball” -- i.e., an absolute must-read for anyone who followed the game.



My grandfather was pleased with my having selected TSN, I think, in part because it was the only one of the choices that he, too, had spent any significant time with back when he was a young man.

The memory of those many hours I spent with those issues of The Sporting News is quite dim, I’m afraid. I can’t really point to particular writers or articles to single out for praise, although I can offer a general appreciation for what TSN provided me -- a means to understand and appreciate sports in a deeper, more meaningful way, including introducing to me the whole idea of using statistics to augment one’s analysis of what happens between the lines.

Today when it comes to sports we have all the quantity we could possibly desire. Those wanting up-to-the-second stats and reporting on our favorite sports literally have it all at our fingertips, just a smartphone swipe and tap away. But some of us recall a time when we had to wait a little longer to be provided such information and entertainment. We also took more time perusing it all. And perhaps the impression left had more depth and greater significance, too.

Shamus is the author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog.

20 December 2012

Linsanity Reprise, Wounded Wolf, and Emo-Kobe

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

After three nights of NBA action, all I can say is that it was another up and down start to the week. The biggest surprise? The Lakers almost blew a game at home against the Bobkittens. Actually, that’s not much of a surprise these days because the Lakers have yet to find an identity as a team. Meanwhile the Knicks resumed their intra-city rivalry with the Brooklyn Nets after experiencing Linsanity Reprise.

Monday Sweat: Minny -3.5, UNDER 198 Sac/PHX, Teaser: Griz -2.5, Clippers -3.5

Monday got off to a good start. We purposely did not bet the Monday Night Shitshow because it was 3.5 hours of suckitute with the Jets/Titans. We had a few plays in the NBA to keep things interesting.

Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a four-game winning streak. With Love and Rubio back, you’d expect the Wolves to be surging at the moment, but they had a off night against the Orlando Tragic. Then again when you shoot at a low clip of 40% (including 28% from downtown) versus Orlando’s 53%, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble. Rubio struggled off the bench with zero points,  4 assists and 3 turnovers. The Wolves were our only loss of the night.

We hit our only total play… and adhered to the Wisdom of the Ocelot about looking to bet the UNDER when two shitty teams play, particularly when one of them played the previous night. The under 198 seemed too good to be true. The PHX Sols prevailed 101-90. HAL420 finally earned his keep!

We’ve been tinkering with a chalk-like teaser/parlay in which we take two strong teams. I don’t like laying so many points, especially on the road, which is why we’re experimenting with two-teamers. We hit another one. The Griz beat the Bulls in Chicago, while the Clippers whopped the lowly Pisstains in the Big D.

The Knicks took on the Houston Rockets at MSG, which marked the return of Linsanity. The Knicks were Melo-less after he twisted his ankle last week. The Knicks got off to a flat start and they couldn’t keep up with the Rockets high-octane run-n-gun offense. It was funny to hear the crowd boo Linsanity whenever he touched the ball. The Knicks suffered their first loss at home this season.

Tuesday Sweat: Golden State -7.5, Atlanta -6.5, Dallas -5.5, UNDER 189 Clev/TorRaptors

Monday was profitable, but Tuesday was a rough night. The difference between a break-even night? A mere half of a point. Shit happens.

I was swamped with work all day and then had to attend a special birthday party for my girlfriend’s father in Santa Monica. I was monitoring the Bobkittens/Lakers line. I was only going to pull the trigger if the line moved to +13. When I was standing around in the bar shortly before tip off, the line moved to +12.5 but I never had a chance to get the number I wanted. I dunno why I was worrying about a half of a point when I know deep down that the Lakers suck. It’s just that I didn’t trust the Bobkittens on the road.

How bad did it get? Bobkittens whipping boy, Gerald Henderson, threw down on an immobile Dwight Howard…

Yeah, no one on the Lakers plays defense and with D’Antoni’s offense in tack, I doubt no one ever will. The Lakers are doomed even if/when Nash returns (on Christmas?). It’s going to take them all of January (if Nash plays all those games) to even mesh together as a team. There’s a slim chance the Lakers don’t even make the playoffs. That’s an extreme case, but if Nash doesn’t heal properly and Kobe gets super-pissed and retreats into selfish Emo-Kobe, then things get ugly as Kobe scores 40+ every night but while the Lakers lose by 5 points.

Anyway, the Bobkittens blew a huge lead, but the Lakers held on to win by a single point. Had they lost? Things would have really gotten ugly in SoCal.

Things didn’t progress the way we anticipated. We were 1-2 going into the last game and relied on the Wolf! The betting darlings of this season, Golden State, were -7.5 favorites over Nola Hornets. GSW was playing at home for the first time in over two plus weeks after a lengthy road trip in which they went 7-1. Golden State won, but failed to cover by a single point. I could rant and rave about missed free throws… but I wont. Meh. We finished the night 1-3 and had to flush not one, but three disgusting turds down the toilet.

Wednesday Sweat: Toronto -2.5, Golden State -3, NOLA +13.5, Teaser: Memphis Griz -5 and Boston -2.5

Boston has been one of those teams that wins, yet struggles to cover. They were perfect candidate for a chalk-teaser with the Griz. Both teams won handily and we probably should have bet both straight up, but like I said, I didn’t trust Boston (even against Cleveland). The Teaser was what helped us turn a profit because we went 1-2 in the other games.

Golden State is now 0-2 ATS in their last two games. Not only did they failed to cover, they actually lost to the Sacramento Kings. This is a team that has been rumored to relocated to Anaheim or Seattle… and it sounded like there were more Golden State fans at the game than Kings fans. But shiiiiit, the always reliable Wolf got wounded… not once, but twice.

TorRaptors were the only winner for us, mainly because we were fading the Pisstains. That helped get us out of a potential shit hole.

I liked NOLA’s numbers on back-to-back nights and they were in a good spot against the Clippers. Even at home, laying 13.5 is a touch bet to swallow, which is why I decided to fade the Clippers. They blew a 35 point lead in garbage time and NOLA came close to backdooring a cover, yet they couldn’t get the job done in the closing seconds.

We didn’t bet the big game of the night so I could enjoy every play without fretting over a financial outcome. The Nets visited MSG to take on the Knicks, which has become a revitalized rivalry in the NBA.

The highlight of the evening including a pair of alley-oop dunks from Chandler. Here’s a reverse slam that got the Garden rocking…
 

image

I’m biased because I watch both the Knicks/Nets regularly, but when the two teams meet, the crowds in Brooklyn and at MSG are loud, fervent, and go bonkers during the games. They are into it on every play. One writer suggested it had a “college atmosphere”, which is not a slam, rather it was a total compliment because college basketball crowds (ah, youthful exuberance and drunken frat boys) tend to go more completely apeshit that tired suits going to the game right after work, or suburban dads schlepping their kids to the game.

Melo played and the Knicks coasted to a win. They bounced back after an embarrassing loss to Linsanity on Monday.

*****

Check out the latest B.S. Report. I’m not the biggest Bill Simmons fan, but I loved his conversation with two of my favorite people… NBA beat writer Zach Lowe and NBA pro bettor Haralabob. Listen here.

18 December 2012

Wasteland: The Burial of the Jets

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The first section of T.S. Eliot’s poem Wasteland is subtitled The Burial of the Dead. As a Jets’ fan, the entire season has been a slow, agonizing demise. After last night’s debacle, the Jets’ death was officially official. Now it’s time to bury the carcasses.

Making fun of the Jets is too easy that it’s almost becoming taboo, like making fun of the special ed kids who ride the short bus to school. Insecure small-minded bullies love to pick out an easy target… and there’s not an easier target in the NFL (and possibly all of pro sports) than the New York Fucking LOL-Jets.

image
I’ve been a Jets fan from as early as I can remember. My brother and I had alternative teams; he liked the Dallas Cowboys and I liked the Pittsburgh Steelers because my mother bought us those cheesy wool hats with the puffy ball on top. Mine was black and gold (Steelers). My brother’s was grey and blue (Cowboys). In the late 70s, those were the top two teams in the NFL and it’s what Macy’s was selling on 34th Street the day my mom went shopping for Christmas presents. Neither of us would be caught dead wearing actual Jets gear. We grew up a few miles from Yankees Stadium and most of the kids in the neighborhood were Giants fans. Had we jumped on the neighborhood band wagon and backed the Giants, we wouldn’t be miserable whenever the NFL season rolls around. The Giants have won four Super Bowls since I picked a side. The Jets? None.

I’ve been drowning in a hearty stew of misery. The head coaches were past their prime, just before their prime, or never lived up to their potential. Walt Michaels. Joe “Joe Must Go!” Walton. Bruce Coslett. Pete Carroll. Rich Kottite. The Tuna. Al Groh. Herm “You Play to Win the Game!” Edwards. That fucker Mangini.

The Jets got Bill Parcells but it was a time when the Tuna was truly burned out. The Jets almost hired Bill Belicheat and they royally fucked that up. Jets fans don’t like to think that they could have had Belicheat and Tom Brady… but instead we were stuck with Mangenius and Chad Pennington.

How good of a coach is Rex Ryan? The greatest trick Rex played was fooling the world into thinking Mark Sanchez was a potential Super Bowl QB.

In the first two seasons as head honcho, Rex took the Jets to the AFC title game, but the team was anchored by a top-notch running game and a menacing defense that even gave Tom Brady migraines. Both the running game and defense were powerful enough to hide Sanchez’s liabilities. In the last two seasons, as the running game diminished and the defense got old/banged up, Sanchez should have stepped up his game to help cover his teammates liabilities, like they did for him in his first two years in the league. Yet, that never happened.

So what did the Jets do to bolster their sketchy QB situation? They threw money at Sanchez and traded for Tim Tebow. Hilarity ensues.

Rex and his brother Rob are among the top defensive minds in the NFL… they will always have a job. Defense is in Rex’s blood. Rex is the son of legendary coach Buddy Ryan. He’s been around the block enough to know that you don’t need a hall of fame QB to win the Super Bowl. When Rex was a kid, his old man was the D-coordinator on the Bears team that had Sweetness Walter Payton, a monstrous D, and a crazy-wacko QB named Jim McMahon. Rex took Ditka’s formula to heart…  build a team around a power running game and an iron curtain D, then you can be a playoff contender with an average QB.

At this point the Jets don’t have a running game. Their defense improved over the season even without Revis. But their QB situation has been disastrous. Sanchez has regressed to rookie status. He botched blitz coverage. He threw into double coverage. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck.

The NFL is a business, but the product the Jets have on the field had been nothing short of atrocious. Tickets for the Jets game this weekend are selling for pennies on the dollar. Superfan Fireman Ed walked away. This is a guy who was a real fireman for two decades and got paid peanuts to run into burning buildings to save people, and he couldn’t stomach the horror of showing up watch a shitshow after shitshow after shitshow.

Then again, what would you do if your Rex Ryan? You have an overpriced QB and man-child in Mark Sanchez that you have to play otherwise you’re wasting a drug-kingpin’s fortune (don’t get me started on Woody Johnson’s day job… he’s just a legalized dope pusher). Or you have a rube rookie in McElroy, whom you cannot play by basis of being from the old school of hard knocks (rookie QBs hold clipboards and should be seen and not heard). Or you play Tebow, a guy with a horrible arm who claims his best imaginary friend is the son of God?

Rex Ryan must have the patience of a Zen monk because he got through this season without having a heart attack or breaking both fists by punching the walls in his office.

Bill Barnwell wrote an article for Grantland… It’s Time for a Jets Intervention.  He thinks the Jets need to just clean house, eat Sanchez’s contract, and keep Rex but get rid of everyone else. If that doesn’t work and the Jets stick with Sanchez, then Barnwell suggested the Jets hire Norv Turner as an O-coordinator. Turner is a horrible head coach, but might be one of those guys who is best suited to be a coordinator (e.g. Wade Phillips in Houston). However, we have a policy here at Ocelot Sports… always fade Norv Turner.

The best plan of action? Reboot everything. Control. ALT. Delete.

I like Rex Ryan so keep him and sack everyone in the front office, trim all the payroll fat, trade away as much as you can for future draft picks. I’d accept a 2-14 season next year if the Jets were truly rebuilding. Yet, the Jets won’t do that. They’ll probably fire Rex and bring in Andy Reid and make a play to get Ryan Leaf out of retirement to play QB.

How bad was it for the Jets last night?

The Titans’ punter shanked a kick and gave the Jets the ball of the 25 with 47 seconds left on the clock. Down 14-10, the Jets needed a TD to secure a win and keep the playoff hopes alive. All Sanchez had to do was hand the ball off to one of their hyper-efficient backs (a triumvirate of Greene, Powell & McKnight which sounds like a litigation firm in Midtown). Instead, the Jets attempted a pass play and from a shotgun position, Sanchez fumbled the snap… off his toe! Yes, we had a butt-fumble against the Pats and now a toe-fumble.

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The Jets (minus Sanchez’s scrambles) were averaging 5.38 yards per carry all game. McKnight looked unstoppable with 29 yards on only four touches.
NYJ - YARDS PER CARRY
J. McKnight - 7.3 
S. Greene - 5.2        
T. Tebow - 5.0 
B. Powell - 4.7   
One anonymous Jets player told the press, “Sanchez lost his confidence.”

Sanchez’s QBR against Tennessee was a paltry rating of 6.8. He’s been under 7 at least four other times this season and posted a QBR under 10 in five instances.

Rex’s alchemy worked wonders for a few years and had fooled Sanchez into thinking he was a professional QB. Rex had the entire sporting world convinced the Jets were on the cusp of going back to the Promised Land for the first time since Joe Willie Namath pulled off an upset against the Colts in Super Bowl III. Then again, if you talk to enough sports conspiracy theorists, they’ll tell you about how that game was fixed for the Jets. Yeah, even deep down I have doubts on whether or not the Jets were a legit Super Bowl champion. Of course, none of that matters because it happened before I was even born.

I’m glad I didn’t bet the Jets. How bad was the game on paper? Vegas sportsbooks took in its lowest handle for the year on Monday Night Football, which is usually the most heavily bet game of the week.

I picked the Jets in my pick’em pool and during the game I refused to check ESPN to see who everyone else picked, because I was convinced that everyone faded the Jets and took the Titans. When the game ended, I was surprised to see so many people took the Jets in my pool. These are intelligent people…. Wall Street banksters, lawyers, programmers, academics, journalists, professors, a CIA analyst, pro poker players… and they all took the Jets like me because they thought that the Titans were going to lay down while the Jets were fighting for a playoff berth.

If you were keeping an eye on potential rigged games… think about this… Titans kickers played like shit (missed FG and a shanked punt in crunch time) and the zebras whistled the Titans for 14 penalties and 111 yards, while the Jets were the AWAY team and only got 4 penalties. Yeah, even the damn officials were trying to gift the Jets a victory and all they had to do was tie their laces correct and could have stolen a cheap win in Tennessee. Alas, Mark Sanchez royally fucked up a potential fix.

The Jets’ season is dunzo. McElroy will probably get the start on Sunday, but it doesn’t matter. I thought I would be bonging out on my brother’s couch in NYC while watching the Jets continue to fight for a wild card berth, but instead I’ll return home for the holidays with a cloud of despair looming overhead.

It’s time for me to sever my ties as a member of Gang Green. I need a new team to root for… one that will not break my heart time and time again.

Oh, we had a good night in the NBA that was the only thing that kept me off suicide watch. But I’ll save that hoops discussion for tomorrow. I cannot believe I used up my allotted time to rant about the LOL-Jets.

17 December 2012

The Story of the Ghost: Giovanni Carmazzi

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

You win some, you lose some. Then you lose some more.

It’s never a perfect world. If some aspect of your life is running good, I guarantee you some other part of your life is suffering.

I rocketed to the top of Pauly’s Pub (a competitive pick’em pool with friends I’ve been running for over a decade and Shamus is the defending champ) and I’m on the money bubble of a confidence pool with a bunch of college buddies. Unfortunately, picking teams without point spreads was the only highlight from Sunday. When it came down to the spread… well, it wasn’t pretty. I’m glad I was fighting off the wook flu and too busy (work projects) to head out to Vegas because I would have lost my shirt and pissed away all that profit we won last weekend.

Sunday NFL Sweat: GB -1, Denver -3, St. Louis -1.5, Pitt -1, Cleveland +1, UNDER 48 Sea/Buf, NE -4 and -3.5

We had two winners and the rest were dogs with fleas. The good? Denver -3 and GB -1.

I was surprised the GB dipped to below a FG, but then again, those Bears-Packers games are always gritty affairs. I’m an avid reader of Steve Rosenbloom’s musings on all things Chicago sports and he has been calling for Lovie Smith’s head for over a year (or more). The Bears got off to a hot start and their defense looked as awesomely impossible to score on as a defense as I had seen in the 21st Century. That’s when the Bears were hit with a rash of injuries… Jay Cutler got hurt and the defense suffered a few setbacks. Plus Lovie Smith is still Lovie Smith… and the wheels promptly fell off the Bears’ bus. The Bears were 7-1 and pundits were penciling them into the NFC Championship game with San Francisco… but that was only midway through the season. Since then, the Monsters of Midway sputtered along and tried to bounce back from an embarrassing loss last week against the Purple People Eaters from Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Green Bay weathered their own shitstorm (injuries, bad play calling, swiss cheese defense) and have slowly gotten back up from the mat after taking it on the chin a few times.  When the line dropped to -1, we couldn’t resist the number. I was wary about Green Bay covering a big spread (e.g. the Detroit Lions last weekend), but -1 seemed like it was too good to be true even if the game was in Chicago. It wasn’t pretty, but Green Bay pulled out the victory. Are they the team to beat in the playoffs? Not really, but no coach wants to have to play at the frozen tundra in January. even if you get to play GB on your own turf, it’s still a troublesome matchup.

Peyton’s offense in Denver improves more and more every game. You can see entire team radiating confidence. That’s what happens when you have Peyton Manning on your squad. Denver’s defense is underrated. Heck, the reason Tim Tebow won all those games last year for the Broncos was simple… the defense kept them in the game. This year with Peyton at the helm, the Broncos’ offense can score on any given possession, so no matter what, they are never quite out of any game if they get behind early.

Denver got off to a hot start and never looked back. Baltimore’s offense is in shambles. They fired their O-coordinator 12 weeks too late. Who was the genius who decided to make Flacco the nucleus instead of Ray Rice? The Ravens got in such a deep hole and the game got so ugly that the local affiliates in SoCal removed the game and gave us a more competitive game instead.

Denver and Green Bay both won and covered which prevented us from having a truly abysmal day. We were way off with St. Louis and Cleveland. Both teams returned to their core-suckiness.

Cleveland had been playing better football the last few weeks, but they regressed and looked totally inept on Sunday. St. Louis is a team that offered up tremendous value all season long, but the team that was 1-0-1 against San Francisco failed to show up against Minnesota.  You knew that Minny and AP (chasing a NFL all-time rushing record) was gonna run the ball up their ass and even though St. Louis knew what was coming they couldn’t stop the AP Express.

Seattle shocked me. I thought their 50+ point performance against Arizona was a fluke because Arizona sucks camel balls, but Seattle came to play against Buffalo.
Wisdom of the Ocelot
Fade the Seachickens on the road, but bet them big at home… except when they play in Canada.
With the game being played in Toronto, we wavered back and forth trying to determine if it was really an “away game” for Seattle or if it should be considered neutral territory. You never know how many Bills fans would make the drive across the border to support their team. In the end, we passed on betting the Seachickens on the road… even though that would have been the sharper play than hitting up the UNDER. It was so ugly that we tore up the ticket mid-way in the 2Q. Both teams almost beat the total by halftime.

The Pittsburgh game was tough to stomach, especially after a shitacular day. Even though the Steelers were down early, I felt confident that Big Ben would rally the troops and take advantage of Tony Romo turnovers in the second half. Although Big Ben sparked a come-from-behind run… Romo did his job and held onto the ball. In overtime, it was Big Ben who made a crucial error when he threw a devestating INT… and that’s all she wrote. Dallas won by a FG and we flushed that turd down the drain.

Had Pitt won, I would not have doubled down on the Pats. The line moved to -3.5 for a few minutes and we jumped on it (we already had Pats -4). That ended up costing us dearly.

The Niners dominated the Pats in the first half. The score should have been in the mid-30s, but the Pats were damn lucky the score was only 17-3 at halftime. Everything that could go wrong… did. Fumbles. Rare Brady INT. Bad penalties. Dropped balls by Welker. Tentative play from Hernandez. Frustrated Brady. The nightmare for the Pats continued at the start of the second half when the Niners extended their lead to 31-3.

Brady woke up in the 3Q. He torched the Niners’ prevent defense and four touchdowns later, the score was tied at 31-31. As soon as the Niners got the ball back, Kaepernick found Crabtree one-on-one. The defender slipped and Crabtree could have walked into the end zone. 38-31. The Pats got another shot on the ensuing possession but failed to convert a vital fourth and 2 situation. They turned the ball over in Niners’ red zone, yet the Niners could only muster up a FG. The scary thing was that even with two minutes to go, the Pats were still in the game… and we had a small glimmer of hope for a backdoor cover. Brady marched the Pats downfield but settled for a FG. They were down by seven points. Sure, we needed three nearly impossible things to happen…
1) Recover an onside kick.
2) Score a TD by the end of regulation and kick the XP for a tie, to force overtime
3) Win the game in OT on a touchdown (and not a FG).
Easy right? With Brady’s arm and his “never give up” attitude, the impossible seemed probable. But the Pats whiffed an onside kick and that was it.

Why did we bet the Pats? They were at home and Brady hates the Niners. He and his old man were bitter than the Niners passed up on local boy Brady (from San Mateo, CA), who slipped to the 6th round. The Jets passed up on Brady too and instead drafted paper mache Chad Pennington. And who did the Niners think would carry the torch after Montana/Young? Hofstra’s Giovanni Carmazzi. That’s right… Giovanni Carmazzi… who never took a snap in a regular season game.

Brady had a chip on his shoulder since 2000. Knowing how Brady’s brain operates, we opted to back Brady because he wanted to burn the Niners badly after they snubbed him. Pros get motivated by random things, but when they are out to prove something to a team/organization, you really can’t stop them. They either fall flat on their face consumed by ire and drowning in their own hubris, or they rise to the occasion and angrily beat the shit out of that chip on their shoulder. You could see the fire in Brady’s eyes in the second half as he brought the Pats down from 28. But his comeback fizzled out. The Pats expended too much energy to get out of their huge deficit and ran out of gas.

Somewhere the ghost of Giovanni Carmazzi was laughing.

In the first half, Brady saved his team points (at least 3 but probably 7) by making a weird shoulder tackle after he tossed an INT to Rodgers. The Niners fumbled the ball two plays later and failed to put any points on the board.

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The media schmucks were billing SF/NE as a potential Super Bowl matchup. If those two meet again, I’m gonna bet Pats big again to make up for this week’s loss. I faded the Pats both times they played the NY Giants in the Super Bowl, but if somehow SF/NE square off in the Super Bowl, there’s no way Belicheat and Brady lose to the Niners twice in the same season.

The Sunday Night Football game was fun to watch if you were a fan… yet a horrendous game to stomach if you had money riding on the Pats. I felt bad for some pro gamblers I know who pounded the UNDER in the game.

Overall, we’re still doing well in the NFL, especially ATS… 35-15-5. However, we’re struggling with over/unders… 19-20-1.

15 December 2012

Good Times Bad Times

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I could have gone Dickens on you and opted for a “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” For some reason, Led Zeppelin seemed more appropriate. This isn’t Victorian literature… it’s more like gritty and nasty like the back of a rock and roll tour bus.

Friday was a weird day if you follow current events. No one wants to hear about little kids dying at the hands of a maniac. The school shooting in Connecticut really put things in perspective… and made me realize how utterly meaningless handicapping basketball games are in the bigger scheme of things. This is truly a cruel world, which is why I do what I can to enjoy the little things that make me smile… like watching basketball and betting on the outcome. A wager gives the meaningless an actual meaning. Sometimes sports is a the best distraction when the real world gets too overbearing. I lived in NYC during 9/11 and when baseball finally returned it was a welcomed distraction. On Friday, I couldn’t wait until the night games tipped off.

But the show must go on.

Friday NBA Sweat: Golden State -4, Jazz -1.5

We had a horrible Friday. 0-2. Ugly. Fugly. The only positive thing that happened? We passed on a late night game that would have been a big fat loser. So we walked away knowing it could have been really ugly. I was glad when Friday ended. It was a sad day. I felt a batch of the vegas crud coming on (I always get a flu-like sickness after a trip to Vegas) and I had to make a tough decision and cancel a trip to Vegas. I know deep down that my girlfriend (and friends we were supposed to meet up with) was bummed out because she really wanted to play poker this weekend, but it just wasn’t the best time to make a drive out to bat country with an illness looming overhead and some extra work that fell into my lap at the last moment.

So… Friday NBA action? Golden State have been our darlings. They were on a huge tear, which coincided with a lengthy road trip on the East Coast. We liked them against the Orlando Tragic, but they were flat all night and we had to flush that turd down the toilet. The good news is that the loss gave us a little extra value on Saturday when they flew to Atlanta to take on the surging Hawks.
The Jazz have been a pain in the ass. When he fade them, they kick our ass. When we back them, they play like shit.

Saturday NBA Sweat: Golden State +8.5, Indy -2.5, Orlando +1

Saturday was the kickoff of the college bowl season with a couple of meaningless bowls. There was also a full slate of college games and we passed up on a sure-fire winner.

All of the wiseguys I know hammered Butler +12 and moved the line to +11. I contacted St. Louis Tommy… who is an Indiana alum and is our local expert on all things IU. I can’t stress enough the importance of gaining the trust of friends who know a lot about a specific team. You can’t possible handicap every single game and every team, but if you know a buddy is a huge Indiana fan or bleeds Kentucky blue, then they become noteworthy sources at getting the straight dope. Generally speaking, I don’t want to know if their team is gonna blow out another team because usually they have a bias… but I’m more interested in when diehard fans don’t have confidence in their team. In this instance, Tommy felt Butler +11 was a great spot. Too bad I didn’t listen to him or follow the steam. I watched the game as a scout… to see for myself how Indiana handled mid-major teams, and more importantly, how well does Stevens’ Butler squad step up in big games. Butler was up down the stretch, but lost two key players who fouled out in crunch time. They let Indiana back in the game and The Indiana-Butler went into OT. Butler hit a few clutch treys in OT to steal a win against Indiana… and Butler upset the #1 team in the country. All that information I grokked will get filed away.

We passed on two college bowl games, although I was leaning toward Nevada. I picked them to upset Arizona in a mega-Bowl pool… but Arizona came from behind and stunned Nevada. They scored twice in the last minute of the game including recovering an onside kick.

Ah let’s not fret over what we didn’t bet… because we had a spectacular night in the NBA.

We eyed the Wiz +15 against Miami. I hate laying double digits in the NBA, even against really bad teams. We jumped on the Wiz… but when Nene was scratched from the line up… we rushed to buy it back. Smart move. Miami won by 20-25?

The rest of the games went… perfect. We needed a 3-0 clip after a lackluster Friday night. The Knicks won a close game (minus Melo) and beat up a shitacular Cleveland Cavs team. But holy shit… Kyrie Irving is fucking money.

Most of the chatter surrounded the return of Ricky Rubio, who was sidelined with a bum knee. The only glimpse of Rubio we got all season was in a hysterical advertisement. I love those Ricky Rubio backyard wrestling ads.

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Rubio played his first game back and looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He dropped nine dimes in just 18 minutes of play. If he played a normal game… Rubio could have had at least 18 assists! With Love and Rubio slowly getting healthy, Minnesota will be a tough team to beat in 2013.

Golden State getting a lot of points seemed too good to be true, especially because ATL is solid. But after losing a game against the Tragic, you knew head coach Mark Jackson was gonna tear his team a new arsehole. Jackson got his team mentally prepared in a game they could have phoned in because it was the last night of a lengthy road trip. You want to fade most teams in that spot… but in that instance I wanted to fade the fade.

Golden State prevailed by 22. David Lee scored 20 points (on 10-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Curry had a bad night from downtown, but they still won.

We had been fading the Orlando Tragic but they showed me something during their victory against GS the previous night. Since they were going to Charlotte, we were actually Fading the Bobkittens. Orlando won by 9 when Big Baby dropped 20. They held off a huge assault by Kemba Walker who dropped 32 in a loss. Shamus’ least favorite player, Gerald Henderson, went 5-15 from the floor. Another bad night for GeHe.

We should have bet Butler to upset Indiana, but we turned a profit backing Indiana Pacers against the Detroit Pisstains. Indy won by 11. David West scored 23 and the Geo Twins (Paul George and George Hill) combined for 33 points, 15 assists, 12 rebounds, and 5 steals.

That’s the way I want to respond to an 0-2 Friday night… by going 3-0. We bounced back after a mentally-ragged Friday. With not much on the slate for Sunday, we’re going to take a welcomed night off from NBA action and focus on a bunch of NFL games.

13 December 2012

Lakers Broadway Blow Out

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

We went 1-3 after taking only the second day off in two months. That’s the equivalent of losing after a bye week. It wasn’t pretty, but these matters never are. Poker taught me to be more zen and not fret on the past beats, rather focus on the now and worry about trying to win the next game.

Thursday NBA Sweat: 3-team teaser: Atlanta, Knicks, Spurs

That zen-like approach is what we’re doing to get back on track. I can do it. Kobe can’t.
Kobe struggled with maintaining a serene-like attitude during the Lakers early-season implosion. He lost his shit one night in the second week of the season and like Godzilla trampling and scorching Tokyo, Kobe couldn’t control his laser eyes and he zapped coach Brown. The Lakers management, caught up in their own reality show-like turmoil (hire Phil/pass on Phil), brought in Mike D’Antoni, the same coach who Melo ran out of New York City.

D’Anotni’s replacement in NYC, Mike Woodson, is a perfect fit for the Knicks because Woody preaches a little more defense, yet runs a watered-down version of D’Antoni’s spread offense. I still think the Knicks run too many ISOs for Melo, but according to @Haralabob… 26% ISOs for Melo this season compared to 35% from last year. To put that in non-stat geek terms… one out of every three times down the floor, the Knicks stand around with their dicks in their hands watching Melo go 1-on-1, but now Melo is only doing it one of out four times, which means the rest of the team gets a chance to touch the ball 75% of the time.

The Lakers are not even close to running a wispy apparition of D’Antoni’s offense. The majority of their sets is Kobe on an ISO or Kobe chucking a three, while occasionally they work the ball gets down low to Dwight Howard, or MWP (formerly known as Ron Artest) chucks a brick from the top of the key. That free-flowing spacious penetrate-and-kick offense by D’Antoni seems like a hopeless utopia. Everyone and their grandmother knows that the Lakers lack the man power to run the offense (MWP isn’t a good enough of a long-range shooter), but most importantly, Kobe is similar to Melo in that they don’t like being held back by an offensive philosophy created by a genius with a cop mustache.

Melo grew up in Brooklyn then moved to Queensbridge. He played street ball, where’s there no time to dwell on philosophical matters…like a spread offense, because on the pavement in the real world full of ball hogs, it’s “shoot now or forever hold your peace.” As soon as you got your hands on the rock, you put your head down and go to the hole, or you pull up and rain a jumper. It’s a death wish for any coach trying hold back a thoroughbreds like Melo and Kobe who would can easily score 50 on any given night.

Cleveland beat up the Lakers the other night. No defense. Stale offense. Drowning in quicksand and playing without two key players (Gasol and Nash). Ugly abounds. Losing the Cleveland? That’s low…. very low… like lying in urine on skid row low… like injecting-bath-salts-into-your-neck-low.

The Lakers clown-show featuring its Swiss-made, Olé-flavored, transition defense took center stage in NYC at the world’s most famous arena… Madison Square Garden. When I was a kid, MSG was where I went to watch different sporting events like WWF wrestling, USSR’s Red Army hockey team, the circus, and the Globetrotters. Later as a teenager, I’d see the Grateful Dead and Phish perform in the same place where Clyde and Pearl captivated an entire city.

The Lakers this year are not feared like the Russian hockey teams of the 1980s. They resemble a rag-tag troupe of jaded clowns hoping not to embarrass themselves in front of the glitzy NYC crowd.

The Lakers are struggling in an horrid season I expected the Knicks to have. The two teams swapped places… the Knicks are at tops of their division and fighting for the top spot in the East, while the Lakers are struggling to get .500 and claw their way into the #8 playoff seed.

The Knicks might be an old team and live/die by the three, but the Lakers are banged up and in disarray. Kobe looks like he has amnesia when he’s on defense and cement in his sneakers. Melo blew by not one, but three Lakers…

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Melo vs. Kobe. TNT suits must have had hard-ons all day think about the potential matchup between the NBA’s top two scorers.

Melo and Kobe went right at it in the opening minutes. It started off like all Lakers games… Dwight got 2 quick fouls, Kobe hogged the ball and everyone stood around and watched, while he quickly padded his stats. If Kobe’s back wasn’t spazzing out, he woulda dropped 50 in another Lakers loss.

Melo unleashed one trey. Then another. And anther. The Knicks jumped out to a double digit lead and never looked back. Melo’s damage? 22 points in the 1Q. The game was still young and Charles Barkley was already calling for Kobe-zilla to shoot laser beams out of his eyes and zap D’Antoni.

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Melo is fun to watch, and the MVP chants that echoed around MSG were warranted. Melo posted MVP-like numbers and without him, the Knicks would be slugging it out in the Eastern basement with the likes of the Wiz and the Bobkittens.

Melo went down in the 3Q with a sprained ankle, but the Knicks had a big gun in JR Smith to go to, but it was Ray Felton who stepped up and hit a few big shots to thwart a late 4Q rally by the Lakers. That’s how bad it got for the Lakers… the Knicks lose their best player and they still can’t come back.

Man, we’ve been fading the Wiz all year… but with the Lakers going into Washington, we might considering backing the Wiz and fading the Lakers.

Anyway… the Knicks won outright and filled in the first leg of a three-team teaser. Atlanta easily won and whooped the Bobkittens. It was up to the Spurs to beat Portland by -2.5. Simple. Three points. Spurs were down most of the game and trailed by double digits in the 4Q. The Spurs got withing 6 with 3 minutes to go. If they couldn’t win outright, I needed an overtime for a shot at covering. For a second night in a row, Spurs choke in crunch time and lose a game against a team they should have beaten the crap out of.

Teaser dunzo.

Wednesday NBA Sweat: Golden St. +8.5, Spurs -3, Memphis -6, Clippers -8

Rough seas on Wednesday night. You figured we would have been in peak form after taking Tuesday off, but we stumbled right off the bat. Our only victory was Golden St +8.5 in Miami. The way Miami has been playing (lackadaisical) they should have been -3 or under. GSW getting big points in that spot was a gift. GSW won at the buzzer and we easily covered.

The other three games were turds. The Bobkittens lost to the Clippers, but beat the damn spread. The Spurs lost outright to Utah after getting hosed down the stretch by the refs. And our darlings the Memphis Griz went ass-cold in PHX and “couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat.”

Thursday NFL Sweat: Cincy -4

We had one NFL game. Thursday Night Futility. Philadelphia versus Cincinnati. LOL-Eagles/Bungles. My girlfriend is tied for first in my pick’em pools. She referred to this game as “Cats vs. Birds”, which is cute and adorable, but I wonder if there’s some sort of statistical analysis to determine if cat-like teams (Lions, Bungles, Panthers, Jags) are getting whooped by bird-like teams (Seachickens, Falcons, Cards)?

We got Cincy -4 when the line opened on Sunday night. I felt better knowing the line jumped to -6.5 and inched toward a touchdown. I couldn’t get enough courage to walk up to the counter and lay -7 on Cincy on the road, then again, they were playing against the miserable Eagles. Andy Reid is a dead man walking and their best player (LeSean McCoy)  is out again with a concussion.

I didn’t watch any of the game with the Knicks/Lakers on. I switched on the NFL channel at halftime only to see Cincy’s Ginja QB fumble not once but twice! Cincy blew a 10-0 lead on those fumbles and Philly took advantage of both turnovers. Cincy held onto the ball the rest of the game, forced five total turnovers, and blew out a demoralized Philly squad in the second half. Not even close.

Cincy -4 was a lock. Good way to start Week 15 going into another weird weekend.

12 December 2012

Talking Lakers, the Scooby-Doo Syndrome, Rabbit-Hunting, and Woody Woodpecker's Laugh

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

This year baseball had the Red Sox, and football the hapless Jets. For the NBA so far, the Los Angeles Lakers have found themselves playing the role of The Traveling Underachievers as the team farthest removed from realizing (probably unrealistic) expectations.

The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the offseason meant the Lakers would begin the year with a starting five consisting entirely of All-Stars, the new guys joining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace.

Many predicted the line-up would position the Lakers to provide a serious challenge the Thunder and Spurs in the West. Metta World Peace was even inspired to list breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10 as a goal for this year’s Lakers team. “We definitely want to beat the Bulls’ record and go 73-9,” he said. “We just have to go get it.... You try to snatch records before you leave this earth.”

While most regarded Metta’s claim as hopelessly fanciful (and not so much of “this earth”), it wasn’t dismissed entirely. Then came a winless preseason (0-8) and a stumble out of the gate (1-4), followed by the rapid elimination of head coach Mike Brown and his Princeton offense from the equation. An intense though brief bout of teasing regarding the possible return of Phil Jackson followed, then Mike D’Antoni was tapped to take over. While no one (other than Metta) was talking about breaking records anymore, expectations were again instantly elevated to improbable levels.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence to support continued optimism, pundits predicted the reunion of D’Antoni with Nash (whom he coached at Phoenix during career peak years for both) would help precipitate a return of Showtime in L.A. But the 38-year-old point guard has remained out with a leg fracture since the second game of the year, Gasol has also missed games because of injury, and those who have taken the floor have only managed to compile a 9-13 record thus far for the Lakers.

The Traveling Underachievers have literally been traveling...



And throwing balls away. And finding other means to commit 16.5 turnovers per game, currently the second-highest total in the NBA. Most are pointing to problems on the defensive end, however, as despite those TOs the Lakers are still scoring 101.5 points per game (7th overall) yet giving up 98.8 (18th overall).

It wasn’t too surprising, then, for post-game Laker quotes following last night’s loss at Cleveland all to sound variations on the “We’re Frustrated” theme. That said, there were some unexpected moments among the sound bites.

Bryant spoke of his teammates’ apparent slowness on the court, saying “it seems like we have the Scooby-Doo syndrome where it takes us like five seconds to take off.” He also evoked Phil Jackson and how he’d helped Bryant learn to remain serene amid difficult situations. “But I won’t lie,” Bryant added. “They’re really fucking with my shit. They’re trying my patience with that Zen thing.”



Meanwhile Dwight Howard reminded us of a different cartoon, namely the eternal conflict between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in his comments. “We're not playing the greatest basketball,” said Howard. “But there will come a day when we’ll have the gun. Right now, we’re rabbits. Once we get the gun, it’s not going to be fun for everybody else.”

Not to tug on Superman’s cape, but it seems like suffering from Scooby-Doo Syndrome means they more resemble tortoises than rabbits, actually.

Of course, most of the focus as far as last night’s post-game comments were concerned centered around D’Antoni snapping at the always self-aggrandizing T.J. Simers’s goofy insinuations that the Lakers weren’t practicing defense.



Simers is kind of an all-timer when it comes to clown questions, consistently patronizing and provoking, and probably should not be given the attention he seeks. Indeed, when D’Antoni told the L.A. Times columnist “you’re starting to piss me off” last night, he joined a long line of people who’ve felt similarly about the inveterate troll.

Simers is a cartoon, really. His attempt last month to get UCLA football coach Jim Mora to admit to throwing a game versus Stanford was cringe-worthy, adolescent applesauce. He’s the Woody Woodpecker of sports reporting, his purposely annoying and often half-baked lines of questioning the equivalent of the bird’s self-satisfied trademark “ha-ha-ha-HA-ha.”

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ show travels to MSG on Thursday to take on the 16-5 New York Knicks, the team who as it happened earned much of the same type of scrutiny and charges of underachieving last season (also, as it happens, with D’Antoni at the helm for part of the journey).

No matter how the game goes, it’ll be hard to look away. Will be hard to resist sticking around after, too, for the cartoons following the feature.

Shamus is the author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog.