31 January 2013

Super Bowl XLVII Props: Our Picks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's what our panel of so-called experts at Ocelot Sports' HQ had to say about our favorite Super Bowl prop bets that the LVH released...

1. Will first kickoff of Super Bowl result in a touchback?
NO +150

Shamus: The 49ers’ Akers actually went five-for-five with touchbacks versus Atlanta, much more reliable in that area than with FGs, although during the year S.F. was at about 48% with touchbacks. And Baltimore’s Tucker booms ’em deep more often than not -- the Ravens ranked 7th in the NFL in touchback percentage at a little more than 54%. But take a chance and say NO here. Under normal circumstances it’s probably a coin flip, already making +150 worth a shot. But I’ll say adrenaline carries the returner out of the end zone from as much as four or five yards deep to start Super Bowl XLVII.

Pauly: David Akers is like the Monet of place kickers. Looks good from far away, but it's really fuzzy up close. But you cannot deny his masterful ability to kick off a tee. I like Shamus' train of thought. Whoever gets to return the kick will be amped up and ready to start things off with a bang. I concur... no touchback.

JoeSpeaker: Hey! Kickers have adrenaline, too! Indoors and revved up, the opening kick goes into the fourth row of the Superdome. Touchback.

* * * *

2. Opening Coin Toss:
TAILS -102

Pauly: It's like Wesley Snipes said in that movie... "Always bet on TAILS!"

StB: AMEN! Wait... did I take heads in the Papa Johns coin toss for a pizza?

Shamus: Six previous Super Bowls have been played at the Superdome, with the coin landing heads four of six (including the last three). HEADS has the clear edge, here. It's science. Seriously... load up.

* * * *

3. Will there be a safety?
YES +900
NO -1300

JoeSpeaker: Remember how awesome that safety was last year? Imagine swaggering up to the window to cash that ticket? Yes please. Both Andy Lee and Sam Koch are kick-ass punters with the ability to pin teams deep. That goes into the thinking here.

Pauly: The sad part about the guy who cashed the safety ticket? He got screwed. The real odds were much higher. The sports book got the best of him when you really look at it. With that in mind, the reall number should be higher like +1400 or +1500. Because of that, I'm going to pass.

StB: Nope.

Shamus: This actually has happened more often than you’d think -- seven times in 46 Super Bowls, or about once every 6.5 games. Meanwhile during the regular season (since 2002) safeties tend to occur about once every 16 games or so. So what are the “real odds”? I’m saying NO.

* * * *

4. Will Dashon Goldson (SF) make an interception?
YES +500
NO -700

JoeSpeaker: I'm gonna go with my man #38 for another longshot wager. If Flacco is throwing deep, there will be a couple jump balls and Goldson has the strength to battle Boldin and Torrey Smith in the air. Yes on 38.

Pauly: Joey Flacco is due for an INT. He's gone 5+ games without one. Plus, the Niners have the ability to pick off long passes. If Flacco underthrows one downfield, it's a live duck waiting to get plucked. I like Goldson with this one.

StB: Who?

Shamus: When I see Flacco has gone many games without an INT, I don’t see him as due -- I see him as less likely to throw a pick. So a NO from me for Goldson.

* * * *

5. The first score of the game will be:

Shamus: A field goal. The first of several on Sunday.

Pauly: I'm convinced this could become a battle of field goal kickers. San Francisco's D keeps Flacco and company out of the end zone on the first drive and force the FG unit to come out.

JoeSpeaker: If this comes down to a battle of field goals, congratulations Baltimore.

* * * *

6. Longest TD of the Game:
OVER 45.5 (-110)
UNDER 45.5 (-110)

JoeSpeaker: I will also take the over in this one. Flacco's been doing a decent impression of The Mad Bomber and Kaepernick is also a big play machine, who could either run or pass for the distance.

Pauly: Niners have given up 5 long TDs, but also got 6 INTs whenever QBs dared to go deep against them. I'm gonna pass, but I'm leaning UNDER.

StB: With these 2 defenses, I'll take the under. If someone is going to give it up, it will be SF but I don't think Boldin gets behind them.

Shamus: Both teams had long TD plays during the divisional round, but neither did in the conference championships. I'm torn. I'll pass.

* * * *

7. Total QB Sacks (Both Teams):
OVER 4.0 (-110)
UNDER 4.0 (-110)

JoeSpeaker: Over! Despite Kaepernick's escapability, Terrell Suggs will get to him at couple times. The 49ers pass rush has been slowed recently, but that's sure to be a priority for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who I expect to add some wrinkles to get more pressure.

Pauly: Baltimore has done a good job protecting Flacco in the playoffs, but that was against the weak front lines of the Colts and Patriots. No way they can hold the Niners back especially with Justin Smith getting extra rest for his torn triceps.

StB: Don't see how this stays under. Both offenses will be nervous to start the game. Toss in an early sack apiece and then watch them go for blood in the 4th quarter.

Shamus: Both teams averaged about 2.3 sacks per game in the regular season, and both teams gave up around that (a little more, actually) per game, too. So I'll take the OVER in a game that should see a lot of passing on both sides and thus a lot of opportunities to tackle the QB for a loss.

* * * *

8. Final Score for Baltimore:
19 -- 40/1
26 -- 40/1

Pauly: He's my "4 FGs theory of 12" in which Tucker kicks four FGs. San Francisco limits Baltimore to 1 TD (maybe 2) but the Niners' defense is so strong that it makes Justin Tucker kick four times and he connects on all four. The 4 FGs equals 12 points, which put several key numbers in play like 19 (1 TD and 4 FGs) and 26 (2 TDs and 4 FGs). I also see a potential scenario in which Tucker connects on 3 FGs and Baltimore scores 2 TDs for 23 points, but I do not like the number offered at 15/1. it should be 20/1.

* * * *

9. First Half Winner & Game Winner:
RAVENS (first half) and 49ERS (game winner) 9/2

Pauly: San Francisco is a slow starting team. I can see them getting into an early hole like 13-7 or 13-10 at halftime, but coming back to win in the second half.

Shamus: Going with how the last two games went for Baltimore here. Heck, even though they led at the half versus Indy in the wildcard, they were a different team after that halftime pow-wow. I'm actually going with 49ers (FIRST HALF), Ravens (GAME WINNER) at 4/1.

JoeSpeaker: The true mark of excellent coaching staffs: making the adjustments at halftime and both have shown that ability this post-season. If the Ravens have a good plan cooked up for the Pistol, I can see them leading early. Although I think the Niner backfield is just too fast for Baltimore.

* * * *

10. Most Penalty Yards:
49ERS +105

Pauly: The Ravens (-125) drew more penalties all year but I don't like laying so much juice. The key to this is "yards" so in the Ravens revamped "go long and I'll hit ya" offense, they have more chances to draw pass interference penalties for big yards down field. With that said, the Niners look attractive here.
My only fear is the pass interference calls way downfield against the Niners. Carlos Rogers especially is prone to this. On the other hand, the Niners haven't had a holding call against an opposing O-lineman since like Week 8. It's a conspiracy.

* * * *

11. Total FGs made by both teams:
OVER 3.5 +125

Shamus: Feel okay on this one. Unless, of course, Akers goes flakers.

Pauly: According to astrological charts, the moon will be in a "Waxing Gibbous" phase so I'm convinced there will be 5 FGs in this game... 4 from Tucker and 1 from Akers.
* * * *

12. Longest FG Made:
OVER 44.5 (-110)

Pauly: I'm a Justin Tucker fan and the 49ers better be careful because this rookie can kick 50+ yards with a high rate of consistency. Let's not forget, Akers suffered through more turmoil than a tormented village drunk in an Irish novel and he's kicked horribly at times, yet earlier this season Akers drilled a 63 yarder, which tied an NFL record.

StB: In the dome, I see them kicking it from a distance just before half.

Shamus: I'll take this bet as well, not so much because of the kickers but because I think this game will have more FGs than TDs and playing indoors makes things nicer when attempting the long ones.

* * * *

13. Will the team that scores first win the game?
NO +160

Pauly: I'm sticking with my "San Francisco is a slow starting team" theory, which applies to both sides of the ball. It takes a series or two before Kaepernick gets cooking and the Niners' defense is most vulnerable in the first quarter. I envision Baltimore scoring (Tucker FG) in the first or second series, but the Niners coasting to a win in the second half.

StB: What is the line on Yes? I liked SF early but have more confidence in Baltimore now. SF has been hot for a couple games and can go cold once again.

Shamus: Both the Niners and Ravens saw opponents score first against them in their last two games. In other words, scoring first this Sunday probably isn’t going to be as vital as has been the case in past Super Bowls, where the team who has scored first has gone on to win 30 of 46 times. But I'm going to pass on this one, although I am betting the first score will be a FG.

* * * *

14. Cross-sport props: Who will have more?
Kobe Bryant (LAL) -4 (-110)
49ERS POINTS +4 (-110)

Pauly: Have you seen the new and improved Kobe? He rebounds, passes the ball, and plays defense. Okay, he still doesn't play defense, but he's passing a lot more. The Lakers are playing the lowly Pistons. The Lakers should get off to a big start and have a field day with Detroit. Kobe gets big minutes all season long and the Lakers haven't played in too many blow outs. I smell a big win for the Lakers and a lot of garbage time, which means Kobe gets to rest on the bench and doesn't have a big scoring night. Meanwhile, Kaepernick and company light up Baltimore. They really don't need +4, but since they're getting points... it's a no brainer.

* * * *

15. Cross-sport props: Who will have more?
Lebron James (MIA) -1.5 (-110)
49ERS POINTS +1.5 (-110)

Pauly: The Miami Heat play the awful Toronto Magic. LeBron is going to light them up like a Christmas tree and smoke the Raptors like a knock-off Cuban cigar. Lebron drops 30 maybe more. I don't think the Niners can score more than 27 or so.

Shamus: Also like Lebron here. And I actually don’t think the 49ers will be scoring at will this weekend (like many seem to believe).

* * * *

16. Cross-sport props: Who will have more??
** Dutch Eredivisie soccer match Groningen at AZ Alkmaar

JoeSpeaker: U.S. striker Altidore has 15 goals in the Eredivisie this season, the second straight year he's topped that mark, and 20 in all competitions, including five in his last three games. The last of these came on Tuesday evening in a 5-0 thrashing of second-tier Den Bosch, whose fans were reported to have directed racist "jungle sounds" at Altidore. That kind of idiotic shit gets Jozy's motor running. He'll get at least one against a Groningen side that's winless in it's last five. One (or more) for Jozy. Zero for Smith. And hopefully some bans for racist Dutch assholes.

Pauly: Which team is Mia Hamm on? I'm going to pass.

StB: I'm with Pauly. Sounds like a gay luchador going up against Smith.

* * * *

17. Will either team score 3 straight times?
**Includes safeties
, but excludes extra points and 2 point conversions

NO +150

Shamus: This one got me thinking about how swingy the playoff games have been this year. Both conference finals saw a team score at least three straight times (with the Falcons doing so before losing). The previous round saw it happen 3 of 4 games (including by both teams in the Atl.-Sea. tilt). And it happened in 2 of the 4 wild card games, meaning it happened 7 of 10 times in the playoffs. That said, I'm taking the +150 and betting against either team scoring three times in a row Sunday, banking that that momentum swings (which will occur) won't result in so many unanswered scores either way.

Pauly: I'm with you. No. This won't be one of those games when one teams gets all the points in the first half and then the other teams puts up 3 straight TDs in the second half.

JoeSpeaker: I like this one, too. It should be noted that these are the two teams who featured the best defense in their playoff games, so there will be some stops.

* * * *

18. Alternative Point Spreads:
49ERS -10.5 (+230)

JoeSpeaker: The Niners are winning this game by a lot. Apologies to those of you who watch the Super Bowl and just "hope to see a good game." You will not get that this year. You will get to see a 49er offense go absolutely apeshit, though. It will be impressive. You will be impressed. 38-20 to the Niners. San Francisco gets a second championship in the span of four months. As if that city's inhabitants weren't insufferable enough.

Pauly: I like a potential blowout scenario by the Niners, but I'll pass. I'm eying a -7.5 (+175) alternative line instead.

StB: That line is beyond silly. Baltimore has a chance to take this game late. I'll take just about any team and 10 points in a SB.

Shamus: Maybe I’m missing something, but after watching those conference championships I ain’t really seeing such a huge divide between these two teams. S.F. is understandably a favorite after having emerged from the better conference overall, but Baltimore’s win was much more decisive. I'll pass.

* * * *

19. Last Player to Score a TD:
Randy Moss (SF) 18/1

Pauly: I generally don't like the numbers on these props for "first player to score a TD" or in this category and they should be much higher. However, in this case, old-man Moss might get a "mercy" touchdown late in the game if its a blowout.

JoeSpeaker: I love this idea and thought process. Of course, I'm also the guy who once won $300 betting on the first TD of a game, a wager which prompted F-Train to mutter, "Who bets on the first touchdown of the game? Someone who doesn't like $20."

* * * *

20. Will there be an overtime?
NO -1000

Pauly: This is a sucker's bet. Super Bowl never goes into overtime. Take the free money.

* * * *

Best of luck on Sunday.

Check out betting results from every previous Super Bowl.

30 January 2013

Oscar Value Bets

By Change100
Hollywood, CA

I may not be a sports bettor, but I am a gambler and I know value when I see it. It really is just like Pauly says-- it's like the line lights up like the numbers on the windowpane in A Beautiful Mind and floats off the page. While I can't say anything intelligent about the 49ers' secondary and barely know the difference between Ray Lewis and Ray Rice, I do know something about Hollywood and the yearly orgy of self-congratulatory fetes we call Awards Season. With 24 days to go before the Oscars, we're in the thick of it and after this week's flurry of guild awards, betting lines are moving faster than Justin Beiber's Porsche in a paparazzi chase.

 Hopefully all you Ocelot Sports Twitter followers picked up my juicy tip last weekend on Argo at +300 to win Best Picture. Sportsbook.com took almost a full 24 hours after the Producer's Guild of America awards (where the film won Best Picture) to adjust their lines. As of Tuesday night, that line was even money on Sportsbook and 2/3 on Bovada. 16 out of the last 22 times, the winner of the PGA award for Best Picture goes on to win the Best Picture Oscar. In the last five years, it's 5-0. And since 2009, the PGAs and the Oscars have utilized the same voting system-- preferential balloting. Instead of voting for one of the ten nominated films, members rank them from 1-10. So this line didn't so much float off the page as it lit up in neon and punched me in the face.

Crazy-eyes J. Law!

Although the Argo value has come and gone, there are still a few good spots out there when it comes to Oscar betting. I like Tommy Lee Jones for Best Supporting Actor at +120 on Sportsbook, especially since the line has already moved to -140 on Bovada. Christoph Waltz also still has some value in that category at +300. Another good play is Jessica Chastain at +200 for Best Actress. Three days ago, she was +150, but Jennifer Lawrence's win at the SAG Awards saw her line adjust from -140 to -250. I think we could be at the peak of the J.Law Oscar hype and I think the Academy might ultimately favor the more serious turn from Chastain rather than awarding two acting trophies to ingenues under 30 (Anne Hathaway has a virtual lock on the Supporting Actress category at least with the oddsmakers, who have her at -10,000).

Here's a look at the major category Oscar nominations. The first number is the line from January 26th (before PGA, DGA and SAG awards). The second is today's line. These lines will certainly move again this weekend with Saturday's Director's Guild of America awards, so if any of these prices look good, now's the time to get your bets in.

Amour +5000 (now +5000)
Argo +300 (now  EVEN)
Beasts of the Southern Wild +7500 (now +7500)
Django Unchained +5000 (now +5000)
Les Miserables +1500 (now +2500)
Life of Pi +2000 (now +5000)
Lincoln -250 (now -140)
Silver Linings Playbook +2500 (now +2500)
Zero Dark Thirty +2500 (now +2500)

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) +5000 (now +5000)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) -10000 (now -10000)
Denzel Washington (Flight) +3000 (now +5000)
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) +1000 (now +1000)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) +5000 (now +2500)

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) +600 (now +1000)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) -140 (now -250)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) +150 (now +200)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible) +2000 (now +2500)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) +2500 (now +3000)

BEST DIRECTOR (no lines moved) 
Ang Lee (Life of Pi) +400
Behn Zeitlin (Beast of the Southern Wild) +2500
David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) +1500
Michael Haneke (Amour) +1500
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) -800

29 January 2013

The Bookie Report: Five Days Until the Super Bowl

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Five days until the Super Bowl. The betting markets are currently tranquil. Smooth waters. This is is calm before the storm before the gambling winds pick up and the betting world gets torn to shreds during a betting hurricane Whichever way the wind blows, right? That's what Bob Dylan was talking about in his song... gauging the public's perception of the Big Game, their group-think betting behaviors, and how the wiseguys manipulate that intel to wrangle the best possible numbers before the masses overrun the sports books in the 48 hours leading up to kickoff.

Depending on where you think the market is going, now might be the time to lock in a number. Let's take a quick look at the opening numbers and the current numbers (as of Tuesday 4:20 PM PT)...

Las Vegas Hilton: 49 (now 47.5)
Mirage: 50.5 (now 47.5)
Atlantis: 50 (now 48)
Pinnacle: 49 (now 47)
Bovada: 48 (now 47.5)
Local Bookie: 50 (now 48.5)

The early birds pushed the number down before most people woke up on Monday morning to see the spread in their daily newspaper. The first wave of money indicated the market had an appetite for the UNDER. We were able to lock up UNDER 49 on Sunday night.

The influx of public money is going to push the total back toward 49. The public generally waddles towards the over. It's the bovine part of the brain that is addicted to over-consumption. We want more and more and more and that mentality applies to wishful thinking about high scoring in the Super Bowl. Touchdowns and more touchdowns and more touchdowns. The public will bet the OVER because they have a short-term memory and cannot stop thinking about how Joey Flacco is hot hot hot and how Kaepernick tore Green Bay apart. If you like the OVER, better jump on it now at 47.5 before the bovine stampede. If you think it's going to be a low scoring game, you can wait until Saturday or even Sunday morning to grab a better number than the consensus 47.5

Las Vegas Hilton: SF -4.5 (now SF -3.5)
Mirage: SF -4.5 (now SF -3.5)
Atlantis: SF -5 (now SF -4)
Pinnacle: -SF 3.5 (now SF -3.5)
Bovada: SF -4 (now SF -4)
Local Bookie: SF -5 (now SF -5.5)

According to Sportsbookspy.com, 60% of the tickets written in Vegas were on Baltimore.  Bottom line: a lot of smaller bets on Baltimore, yet bigger-sized bets on San Francisco.

We got  SF -3.5 with some serious reduced juice at Heritage (only -101). In Vegas, it's pretty much -3.5 for now but ready to start heading back over to -4 and higher when the tourists start arriving on Thursday and Friday. Things will get a little crazy with tons of San Francisco money driving up the prices and flooding the books. Meanwhile, the contrarian wiseguys and other syndicates are waiting to pounce in at any moment and grab Baltimore getting as many points as they can. When will the line hit -5 in Vegas or offshore? The weekend warriors betting online at Bovada and Sportsbook.ag will probably be looking at -5 on Saturday's and maybe even high by Sunday morning. If you like Baltimore, you can probably wait until later in the week. If you like San Francisco, better grab it now at -3.5 before it goes higher.

The local markets in California are lopsided with San Francisco money. NoCal bookies have been laying off for over a week, but Niners' fans are taking -5.5 or -5 with lots of extra juice. The inflated lines have not discouraged locals from jumping on a bad number, which I assume might go even higher by kickoff. How could it not be -6 in the Bay Area by the time Sunday rolls around? They're hoping they can get some out of town money to help them out, otherwise a Niners' blowout could put a few local bookies out of business.  Even in SoCal, the local bookies are offering -5 or if you're lucky you can find -4.5 with added juice. Those inflated numbers are still not deterring bandwagon action. This weekend it will get even crazier.

* * * * *

Keep an eye on the lines over at PreGame.com's LIVE ODDS page which includes up to the minute updates at Las Vegas Hilton and several major offshore shops.

For some stellar writing about being a Niners' fan, check out Joe Speaker's Generations and read about his Magic Baby.

Also, to read a betting recap of the AFC and NFC Championships, check out San Francisco's Hook, Baltimore's Second Half Shutout, and Tom Brady's Donut.

Do you want to see what the point spread was for previous Super Bowls? Check out my previous post... Super Bowl History: Betting Lines and Results.

28 January 2013

Play Like a Jet! What Does That Mean?

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

While enduring a weekend without NFL football -- like Joe Speaker, I can’t really consider the Pro Bowl as counting -- I found myself diverted by some of the responses to the New York Jets’ recent hire of John Idzik as their new general manager.

As a Carolina Panthers fan, I have no particular interest in the Jets other than to appreciate the entertainment provided by the ongoing drama the franchise seems especially apt at generating. (Besides we’ve just hired our own new GM down here at Carolina and thus have our own troubles to work through.) And there was entertainment to be had while perusing some of the commentary resulting from the Jets having chosen Idzik.

Over on ESPN, Rich Cimini recapped Idzik’s first day on the job, in particular that not-so-inspiring press conference in which he “fumbled” a question about the future of cornerback Darrelle Revis and “dropped [the] ball” when suggesting “I don’t sense dysfunction” in the organization.

“John B” of Gang Green Nation also offered some “Initial Impressions” of Idzik, and he, too, wasn’t too thrilled with the new GM’s talk of trying to build consensus with regard to personnel decisions. While hopeful as a fan, he also found the introduction of Idzik “underwhelming.”

N.Y. Jets new GM, John Idzik

I was most amused, though, by the predictable yet still nearly side-splitting rant provided by WFAN’s Mike Francesa regarding Idzik’s presser.

Now I know Francesa is a divisive figure, and to be honest I find his interviewing style to be mostly less than inspired and often tedious. But I do enjoy a good Francesa rant, and his vitriolic response to Idzik’s wishy-washy lack of gravitas was pretty much packed with grin-producing gems.

“This was, for an opening press conference, somewhere between awful... and... disappointing,” Francesa declared by way of stating an evaluative thesis.

“It was not a disaster, but it was close.”

The slow burn continued for several minutes, during which Francesa repeatedly derided Idzik for having insisted that he intended to fill the roster with players who “played like a Jet.”

“Play like a Patriot!” was Francesa’s response to that idea. “Play like a Raven! Play like a Giant!” Francesa was taking up the fans’ cause. “They’re tired of you playing like Jets!”

The big issue, of course, is how Idzik sounded a lot like he’s prepared to defer to Coach Rex Ryan rather than assume a leadership role himself. Francesa couldn’t believe that a new GM would join a franchise that had just gone a miserable 6-10 and not talk about the need to do anything other than what had been done in the past.

“Come in and say you’re gonna make changes and you’re gonna shake things up,” Francesa pleaded, “and not that ‘We’re gonna come out and play like Jets.’ Like that’s a good thing! What does that mean? You’re gonna run into the backs of other players’ rear ends again or what?!”

We remember, right? I mean how could we forget... butt-fumble!


“The Jets need a leader,” Francesa would later say. “The Jets need someone to take them out of this mess. And I did not see one thing today that would make me think that today we found the guy.”

Having built his outrage into an impressive bonfire of disgust, Francesa then began playing clips of Idzik and responding, the result resembling a two-man comedy team following a pleasurably rhythmic set-up-and-punch-line pattern.

Idzik: “We’ll use trades, we’ll use waiver claims, we’ll use our practice roster... we’ll have numerous tryouts throughout the year...”

Francesa: “Oh, good!”

Idzik: “...in search for guys who play like a Jet.”

Francesa: “’Cos that’s always worked out! So look, if you’ve got a helmet, you know, and you’ve always wanted to play like a Jet, then get ready! ’Cos they’re gonna have numerous tryouts throughout the year, ’cos that’s where you pick up your best players.... [It’s not like] they’re not playing somewhere.”

Idzik: “I can’t comment... I’m literally just hours into the building. Rex had to show me my office.”

Francesa: “Oh, boy. If Rex is leading the way... do I even need to comment on that one?”

Idzik: “My initial impressions are we have a real strong group here, and I look forward to working with them in the days and weeks and nights to come.”

Francesa: “If they’re a real strong group, what are you doing here? How are they a real strong group? If they’re a real strong group, why would they be hiring a new general manager? And how did you ascertain that if you couldn’t even find your office?!”

Idzik: “I literally have criss-crossed the country... I don’t know what day or time it is.”

Francesa: “Okay, you fit in perfect with the Jets. I mean that basically... I mean, you’re a Jet! That’s it. You don’t know what day or time it is, and Rex had to lead you to your office. I mean... listen, it sounds like he’s been here for years!”

There’s more, including a clip of Idzik showering praise on Ryan and how he inspires players to play hard. To that Francesa responded with several seconds of silence. Then he said he didn’t know where to start. “I could go in eight different directions now,” he finally said before listing a couple of examples (from many) of the Jets having played less than hard during the 2012 campaign.

Who knows... Idzik may actually turn out to be a fine leader who operates behind the scenes much differently than appears might be the case from such an introduction. But Francesa isn’t too hopeful...

“Oh my God... I mean... listen... if this is what you were looking for in an opening press conference... God bless you.”

And God bless the LOLJets for entertaining us, even when there is no football.

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

26 January 2013

Super Bowl History: Final Scores, Betting Lines, and Results

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I love the Super Bowl because it forces the general public to learn Roman numerals. Okay, we're one week away from Super Bowl XLVII (that's 47 just in case you didn't know) and it's time to go back in time and see results and betting information for every Super Bowl (courtesy of VegasInsider.com).

Here's a quick rundown....
- Over the first 30 Super Bowls, the favorites went 20-10. Over the last 17, the underdogs are 10-5-2.

- Overall, favorites are 25-20-2.
- Overs hit 22 times and the Under hit 23 times.

- In the 14 games with a spread of 10 or more, the favorite went 8-5-1.

- In the 21 games with a spread of 6.5 or less, the favorite went 14-7.

- Scoring has vastly improved through the years and the bookmakers have adjusted their totals from the 30s in the defense-driven and running-game dominant era in the 1960s & 1970s, and jumped to the 40s in the 1980s as offenses opened up, and now 50s in the late 1990s and 20000s era of superlative passing offenses. Spanning the first 15 Super Bowls, the bookies set only one over/under total 40+ (Super III with the Jets/Colts). Since Super Bowl XVI (1982), bookies set only four o/u totals below 40 points. Since Super Bowl XXVIII (1994), the bookies set ten games with o/u totals 49+ points or higher, and only 2 o/u totals were set below 39.

Here are the results from every Super Bowl...

Super Bowl I (1967) - Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10
Lines: Green Bay -14
Results: Favorite (no known total set by bookies)

Super Bowl II (1968) - Green Bay 33, Oakland 14
Lines: Green Bay -13.5 and 43 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl III (1969) - New York Jets 16, Indianapolis 7
Lines: Indianapolis -18 and 40 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl IV (1970) - Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7
Lines: Minnesota -12 and 39 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl V (1971) - Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
Lines: Baltimore -2.5 and 36 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl VI (1972) - Dallas 24, Miami 3
Lines: Dallas -6 and 34 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl VII (1973) - Miami 14, Washington 7
Lines: Miami -1 and 33 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl VIII (1974) - Miami 24, Minnesota 7
Lines: Miami -6.5 and 33 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl IX (1975) - Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6
Lines: Pittsburgh -3 and 33 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl X (1976) - Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17
Lines: Pittsburgh -7 and 36 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XI (1977) - Oakland 34 Minnesota 14
Lines: Oakland -4 and 38 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XII (1978) - Dallas 27, Denver 10
Lines: Dallas -6 and 39 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl XIII (1979) - Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31
Lines: Pittsburgh -3.5 and 37 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XIV (1980) - Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19
Lines: Pittsburgh -10.5 and 36 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XV (1981) - Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10
Lines: Philadelphia -3 and 37.5 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl XVI (1982) - San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21
Lines: San Francisco -1 and 48 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl XVII (1983) - Washington 27, Miami 17
Lines: Miami -3 and 36.5 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XVIII (1984) - Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington 9
Lines: Washington -3 and 48 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl XIX (1985) - San Francisco 38, Miami 16
Lines: San Francisco -3.5 and 53.5 o/u
Results: OVER and FAVORITE

Super Bowl XX (1986) - Chicago 46, New England 10
Lines: Chicago -10 and 37.5
Results: OVER and Favorite 

Super Bowl XXI (1987) - New York Giants 39, Denver 20
Lines: New York Giants -9.5 and 40 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXII (1988) - Washington 42, Denver 10
Lines: Denver -3 and 47 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XXIII (1989) - San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
Lines: San Francisco -7 and 48 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG 

Super Bowl XXIV (1990) - San Francisco 55, Denver 10
Lines: San Francisco -12 and 48 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXV (1991) - N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19
Lines: Buffalo -7 and 40.5 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl XXVI (1992) - Washington 37, Buffalo 24
Lines: Washington -7 and 49 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite 

Super Bowl XXVII (1993) - Dallas 52, Buffalo 17
Lines: Dallas -6.5 and 44.5 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXVIII (1994) - Dallas 30, Buffalo 13
Lines: Dallas -10.5 and 50.5 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXIX (1995) - San Francisco 49, San Diego 26
Lines: San Francisco -18.5 and 53.5 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXX (1996) - Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17
Lines: Dallas -13.5 and 51 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG 

Super Bowl XXXI (1997) - Green Bay 35, New England 21
Lines: Green Bay -14 and 49 o/u
Results: OVER and PUSH

Super Bowl XXXII (1998) - Denver 31, Green Bay 24
Lines: Green Bay -11 and 49 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XXXIII (1999) - Denver 34, Atlanta 19
Lines: Denver -7.5 and 52.5 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXXIV (2000) - St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16
Lines: St. Louis -7 and 45 o/u
Results: UNDER and PUSH

Super Bowl XXXV (2001) - Baltimore 34, New York Giants 7
Lines: Baltimore -3 and 33 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XXXVI (2002) - New England 20, St. Louis 17
Lines: St. Louis -14 and 53 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG 

Super Bowl XXXVII (2003) -  Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21
Lines: Oakland -4 and 44 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004) - New England 32, Carolina 29
Lines: New England -7 and 37.5 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XXIX (2005) - New England 24, Philadelphia 21
Lines: New England -7 and 46.5 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl XL (2006) - Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10
Lines: Pittsburgh -4 and 47 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl XLI (2007) - Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17
Lines: Indianapolis -7 and 47 o/u
Results: UNDER and Favorite

Super Bowl XLII (2008) - New York Giants 17, New England 14
Lines: New England -12 and 55 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG  

Super Bowl XLIII (2009) - Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23
Lines: Pittsburgh -7 and 46 o/u
Results: OVER and DOG

Super Bowl XLIV (2010) - New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17
Lines: Indianapolis -5 and 57 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG

Super Bowl XLV (2011) - Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25
Lines: Green Bay -3 and 45 o/u
Results: OVER and Favorite

Super Bowl XLVI ( 2012) - New York Giants 21, New England 17
Lines: New England -2.5 and 53 o/u
Results: UNDER and DOG 

Super Bowl XLVII (2013) - Baltimore vs.  San Francisco
Lines: San Francisco -4 and 47.5 o/u
Results: ??????

25 January 2013

Bye Week To Do List

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

It's the Super Bowl Bye Week, which means it's the worst weekend of the year, especially for fans of the 49ers and Ravens. I'm actively avoiding any and all news from the two camps and New Orleans just because it's making the time drag. I can't start ramping up the nervousness and hate until Monday. It's painful, though. I haven't twiddled my thumbs this much in 18 years. It's driving me crazy. So I've put my thumbs aside and decided to help. Here are some things you can do this weekend to take your mind off the fact there's not football (the Pro Bowl is not football!) happening on your television.

Get your floors done. I know what you're saying: this doesn't make any sense. And you're right! But we've been getting our hardwood on the last two weeks at Speaker Manor and the final round of upgrades is happening on Saturday and Sunday, which means I have to be out of the house, along with the whole family and the dog. You can't miss football if you're not in front of your TV! It's like pretending to be a homeless person for 48 hours! We're going to wander around the mall until they throw us out.

Golf. Yeah, I was kidding about walking around the mall. I'm playing golf.

Soup Kitchen. Volunteer your time and go help  out on skid row. It will remind you how lucky you are and what could happen to you if you bet too much on Super Bowl props. It's always good for the soul to help those less fortunate. You might even run into Andre Rison.

Read. I live in Southern California, so we don't really get a lot of "Curl Up by the Fire" days, but you probably do, in that god-forsaken cold place where you live, so it's the perfect weekend to catch up on your reading. The best book I have read in the last five years is "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann. Do you like velvety prose? No, of course not, never mind. Sports blog. I forgot.

Get Drunk. Woooo-hooooo! Back to the core demographic! Do you find that assumption insulting? Then why do you still watch beer commercials? Those things are Lunkhead Central. The NHL is back with a full slate of games on both days, so you can head down to your local sports bar and watch six straight hours of puck or college and pro hoops or the Premier League--always liked hitting the bar for soccer games because it's one of the few places it's acceptable to start hitting the Guinness shortly after sunrise. You can go on a full bender, do your Max McGee impression. As long as you stop at the alcohol and don't go full Stanley Wilson.

Go to Oakland A's Fan Fest. This is a bad job by me. Sunday's event is sold out, so you can't go to this. Although, why would you? I don't get it. Spring training, I get. Because there's baseball! And sun! Fan Fest is a day full of ballplayer cliches, perhaps an autograph (really? how old are you? what the hell do you need with autographs?), indoors, in the shit part of Oakland. Don't do this. I'm sorry I ever brought it up. It does, however, remind me of last year when a friend asked if I was "following" Fan Fest on Twitter and I said I wasn't, that I was shoe shopping with my wife and it was still more interesting and also contained the exact same number of quality major league hitters.

Horse Racing. Nobody goes to the track anymore, which is a shame. The track rules. It doesn't smell great, but it rules. You'll get that (unpredictable, guesswork) wagering fix you'll miss this football-free weekend. Gulfstream and Santa Anita are both offering Graded Stakes on Saturday. Sounds fun. Someone want to come babysit my kids at the mall so I can go to the track?

Go Outside and Play. Pretty self-explanatory. Make like a Kennedy and have a flag football game on your huge sloping, picturesque lawn. Steal a bike and go ride it. Go to the beach or the mountains or the desert or the lake, just get up off the couch already. Hike somewhere besides to the beer cooler and back. Grab your mittens and a sled. You'll get your fill of guacamole and sangria (I had sangria at a Super Bowl party in 1982--yes, I was 15--and though I hated it then, I have always thought it was a perfect pairing for the Super Bowl) and chicken wings and drunken neighbors knocking over your lamps. Think of this as a kind of Leap Weekend, a bonus, if you will, where you can get to know your wife again after these long football months apart. Push the kids on the swing. Have a catch.

I hope this helped. We only have one game left and we have to divert our minds from that sad fact, gear up for the end of the season and six long months before we get to see pigskin again. Shit...maybe I will watch the Pro Bowl.

24 January 2013

Hockey Fights: Jordin Tootoo vs. Jared Boll

By StB
Milwaukee, WI

The NHL is back and they are fighting to get their fans back. Literally. Sports Illustrated is calling them out on it. And they think the coaches are enjoying it.

Some of these guys have been playing hockey in Europe or Canada. There could be some bad blood from previous play. But it makes for a better story if they say the coaches are encouraging action to pump up their team. I am sure NHL officials don't mind it when they hear the fans cheering.

In this video, you can see Jordin Tootoo (Detroit Red Wings) quickly slide around to get after Jared Boll (Columbus Blue Jackets). Looks like Tootoo is quite a bit smaller. And for a guy instigating a fight, he better win it!

Alas, I'd say Boll gets the better of this scrap. Tootoo better find someone his own size.

Out of Control: The NCAA Investigates Itself

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

Been reading this morning about how the NCAA has now admitted to some pretty significant procedural problems with its investigation into the University of Miami’s athletics programs. Indeed, now the NCAA is apparently investigating its own investigation of the “U”... which sounds a little like if things get taken a step further the whole institution might disappear down some M.C. Escheresque staircase to infinity.

Predictably, a lot of jokes have been flying around at the NCAA’s expense today. You know, suggestions that the NCAA should declare itself ineligible or give itself the “death penalty.” And of course the usual -- and well founded -- cries about student-athletes’ exploitation are being renewed amid charges of the NCAA’s hypocrisy, too.

My personal background piques my interest in this story somewhat. For a couple of reasons.

For one, I happened long ago to have gone to high school with former Miami head basketball coach Frank Haith. Haith was two or three years ahead of me, and so we really never knew each other. But I remember him playing hoops for our high school team, then going to Elon College (now Elon U.), then eventually moving on to work his way up the college coaching ranks.

I guess I’ve always kind of vaguely rooted for Haith thanks to our common past. I started noticing him on television during the late 1990s as an assistant for Wake Forest, and I was glad to see him get the job at Miami and enjoy some success there during his seven years as a head coach. And while his talented Missouri team last year had a that early first-round exit in the NCAA tournament, I was again pleased to see him earn some post-season accolades including being named the AP’s College Basketball Coach of the Year.

Frank Haith

Stories about an NCAA investigation began right around the time Haith took the Missouri job, I believe. The investigation focused on a booster named Nevin Shapiro who allegedly gave all sorts of goodies to Miami players and coaches starting way back in 2001. We’re talking cash gifts, mostly, but also merchandise and apparently even prostitutes. (There’s a story of Shapiro renting a yacht, hiring hookers, and inviting players to party.) It seems pretty clear a lot of craziness was happening involving Shapiro and the “U” over the past decade, although it also sounds like most of it was confined to the football side of things.

In March 2011, Shapiro told the NCAA about what he’d been up to. A couple of months later, Shapiro was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having devised a huge $930 million Ponzi scheme. In August Miami was told they were under investigation, and within weeks the NCAA was suspending several football players and Miami was self-imposing a bowl ban for 2011. The investigation continued into the following spring when Miami announced they were self-imposing a bowl ban again for the 2012 season.

While most of Shapiro’s activities focused on the football program, apparently he did have at least some contact with the basketball coaches, including with Haith (who by the 2011-12 season had moved on to Missouri). Meanwhile in the spring of 2012 some improprieties involving a couple of basketball players having received improper benefits (plane tickets) from assistant coaches when Haith had been at Miami were uncovered, resulting in player suspensions.

In November 2012, the NCAA asked former Miami players to testify in the case, saying if they did not they would assume the players had been involved in violations. Some players did testify, but others did not. Then last week came the news that Haith was going to be charged by the NCAA with “unethical conduct and a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

From what I understand, the charges partly stem from allegations regarding some cash ($10,000) eventually finding its way into the pockets of a family member of a former Miami player (DeQuan Jones) and the NCAA believing the story of Shapiro over Haith’s own version of what happened. Shapiro said he’d gotten the money from Haith’s assistants, then gave it to Jones’s family member. Haith said money had been given to his assistants to run basketball camps, and that was that.

It is that incident that brings the charge of “unethical conduct” -- i.e., something the NCAA could never actually prove happened, but for which the Ponzi schemer’s word was deemed convincing enough to the NCAA for them to levy the charge. (That’s my impression, anyway, and as I say feel free to take my own “faith in Haith” bias into consideration here.) Meanwhile, the “failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance” charge has to do with those instances where Haith’s assistants allegedly used their frequent flyer miles to help players get a few plane tickets.

The NCAA hasn’t yet penalized Haith in any way. In fact, prior to yesterday’s announcement -- which has thrown everything in limbo -- Haith was going to have 90 days to respond to the charges, then the NCAA would have another six months to decide how it might act. His job at Missouri wouldn’t necessarily be in jeopardy (the NCAA can’t make Missouri fire its coach), but obviously Haith’s reputation has already taken a hit, regardless of what happens next.

But yesterday NCAA President Mark Emmert surprisingly revealed that the NCAA enforcement staff had gotten Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to obtain information for them in the course of conducting their investigation. This gets complicated, but apparently during bankruptcy proceedings for Shapiro, the NCAA’s enforcement staff suggested particular questions the attorney could ask, questions which presumably would help them gather more dirt on Miami (and may or may not have been pertinent to the bankruptcy case, not that the NCAA had anything to do with that).

Mark Emmert

Later on, the NCAA got a bill from the attorney, because attorneys never do anything without billing. And it was the receipt of that bill that brought possible procedural problems to the NCAA’s attention.

If I’m following it all correctly, the issue isn’t so much with what might or might not have happened at Miami but with how the NCAA went about getting its info, with the communications with Shapiro’s attorney regarding a totally unrelated matter (Shapiro’s bankruptcy) having crossed a line. Meanwhile, coercing players into testifying and favoring criminals’ testimony over that of a coach is apparently within the NCAA’s self-acknowledged bounds of conduct. (Never mind any other possibly untoward investigatory methods employed by NCAA enforcement staff that have not been revealed as yet.)

I mentioned I had a couple of reasons for finding this story interesting. The other has to do with my own background as an academic. I previously taught full-time on the college level for 10 years, and for a half-dozen of those years served as the college’s Faculty Athletic Representative.

The FAR fills a complicated role that is defined differently on just about every campus, but essentially I was there to act as a liaison between academics and athletics while also serving on search committees for coaches and being involved with compliance. I wasn’t the “compliance officer” as such, but I was always in the loop as far as making sure students were academically eligible to compete. We would literally go through transcripts and look at every potential player’s GPA at the start of the school year to make sure everyone was okay to play.

It was a Division II school, and thus the stakes weren’t nearly as high as they are at big universities like Miami. But there was scholarship money to give out, and a lot of attention was given to recruiting and how to go about it within the NCAA’s guidelines. I administered the recruiting exam to coaches each year to make sure they were up on the latest changes, and in fact took the exam myself one time just to better my own understanding of the many complicated rules. The book from which we studied was several hundred pages long and while it was comprehensible it was also certainly full of potential ambiguities and confusing proscriptions.

That experience further affects my response here, giving me a lot more sympathy for coaches honestly trying to operate according to NCAA guidelines yet sometimes finding themselves making missteps. And while I share the cynicism a lot of people have toward big-time NCAA sports and what some regard as a thinly-veiled fiction regarding “getting an education” and the whole idea of “student-athletes,” I nonetheless believe that a high percentage of programs, players, and coaches sincerely believe in the importance of academics and conduct themselves accordingly.

I’m not saying athletics aren’t considered more important than academics on most Division I campuses -- a quick comparison of the salaries of head coaches and faculty helps dispel that illusion in mere moments. But I do think the classroom part of the equation matters to a lot of those involved and like I say the majority of coaches and athletic directors are trying their best to play by the NCAA’s sometimes Kafkaesque-seeming restrictions.

That said, the NCAA’s unrestrained method of trying to police schools’ athletics programs seems to me not only unfair but in many ways unjust. Yesterday’s revelation of the institution’s shady information-gathering tactics only brings to the surface something that I believe has already been the case for many years with the NCAA, what might be called “a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance” with principled, even-handed, rational ideas of governance. After charging so many schools with being “out of control” with regard to compliance over the years, this week’s news helps confirm the NCAA themselves are severely lacking when it comes to controlling themselves.

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

23 January 2013

For His Next Trick...

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

The commercials are dumb, sure, and I don't even know what crappy beer they're selling so quickly do I shut off my brain when I see them on screen, but there is truth in the 49ers fan sitting in his favorite spot from 1995 and the guys with their labels out for the field goal try. Sports fans are superstitious. We truly believe we have some supernatural ability to alter or influence the outcome of a sporting contest in which we have nothing but a rooting interest. If you are scoffing at me right now, first, stop and second, you are lying to yourselves, because you've done it, maybe not consciously, but you've done it. I can't watch Oakland A's playoff games with my mother. They have never won in the post-season when she is in the room telling me to "be quiet" and "calm down" and "stop yelling at the umpires." My friend Kool Breeze spent large portions of the 1990 NLCS with his pants half off, a ritual he believed helped his Cincinnati Reds during crucial at-bats. You have a superstition, an overt one or a minor one or a hundred of them big and small, but you fear giving it voice, because then it won't work anymore like birthday wishes and genies in bottles.

Fortunately, I am not superstitious about the source of my teams' good fortunes. In fact, I've been talking about it for months.

My infant son C-Bone was born on May 10 of this year. A month later, the Los Angeles Kings, my favorite hockey team, won their first Stanley Cup, culminating a nine-week roller coaster ride I've not often experienced as a sports fan, complete with a child being born between Rounds Two and Three. This was the first championship one of my teams had won since those Steve Young-led 49ers in 1995. That's 17 years. And it wasn't only the first championship in that span, it was the first time since then that one of my teams had even played for the shot.

We celebrated. I dressed him in Kings silver and black. I jammed him into The Cup for a family photo. We watched the parade together. We met with Kings brass.

Kings Governor Time Leiweke, who signed our commemorative newspaper,"(C-Bone), you have no idea."

Ain't that the truth. Yet, at that point, I had not made the connection between the child and the title. I was too busy hating gutless journeyman Mike Smith and the rest of those cry-baby Coyotes. Once that vendetta was salved (at least until the two teams trade many, many blows this week), it was a peculiar coincidence that made me start to think C-Bone was having a positive influence on my teams.

The A's went into the All-Star Break last year at .500. They won six of seven to get even at 43-43. And I remembered the last time they had done that. The year was 2001, the year where they were touted as World Series favorites, only to stumble out of the gate. They needed a mini-run in June and July to get to the break at, you guessed it, .500. 2001 also happens to be the year my other child, AJ, was born. The A's went a ridiculous 58-16 in the second half of that year to easily win the Wild Card (while finishing an absurd 14 games behind the absurd Mariners who won 116 that year), so when the rather unfancied A's got to .500 in 2012--the same year I had another kid!--I jokingly made the observation that they would probably have a ridiculous second half and make the playoffs.

Even though I didn't believe that. But that's exactly what they did, playing .671 ball in the second half  thanks to unforeseeable performances from the likes of Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson and a dozen-plus late-inning heroics to win the AL West. It was sometime in August, with the playoffs within reach, I began to refer to my Magic Baby, who waved his chubby fist--which is covered with saliva and strained carrots--and made my teams good when most wouldn't have thought they had a chance, like the eighth-seeded Kings or the A's team that most had pegged around 70 wins. Of course, I do have good teams that I root for, as well, and Stanford beat Oregon (definitely needed magic for that one) and won the Pac-12 and then the Rose Bowl. In the meantime, I tied for first in my college football pick 'em contest, won an NFL pick 'em pool and tied for first in Pauly's NFL pool, all while Emet chopped her suicide pool three ways (results that would have won the family a total in the four figures were wagering legal).

By this time, the Magic Baby effect was public knowledge, so often did I refer to in on Twitter. I began to get offers to lend the child out for luck (alas, his tour rider is too obscene for even the heartiest fans; also, my wife wouldn't let me). People began to wager (again, if such things were legal) based on the Magic Baby's whims, even though his power is not infallible. The A's, after all, did not win Game 5 against the Tigers, which meant they didn't get a chance to go to the World Series. Of course, the A's are so snake-bitten and cursed in the playoffs (I still blame Jeremy), that this is hardly an indictment of  C-Bone. Some vibrations of the universe can't be overcome (and when Justin Verlander gets to throw at a 27" plate, no Magic anything will overcome that). Though it has been pointed out to me that the San Francisco Giants DID win the World Series and C-Bone's grandparents and Uncle are all fans of that particular (lucky-ass) team, so perhaps it does apply to baseball, just not MY baseball, and dammit the A's really are cursed.

If the A's are beyond supernatural intervention (maybe it's the curse of all those Juicers we had in the '80s), the big question is how long I can continue to count on my Magic Baby to deliver the goods?

I thought maybe we'd see a dip in results after the end of the calendar year, but the 49ers won both playoff games this January and are headed to the Super Bowl. Will it all end on his first birthday and May 10th will send me back into a black hole of sports near-misses and routs? And what will become of Brandon Moss?!?!?

(Brandon Moss will regress; a lot. That's not Magic Baby, that's just science.)

There is no answer for the Magic Baby phenomenon. It will end when the time is right, when the mystical gyrations of the universe fall into a new pattern (remember that one pattern a few years back when Boston won everything? Phew, I'm glad that's over). Until then, we will embrace and enjoy the run and if someone out there reading this gets an idea for a beer commercial starring the Magic Baby, please contact our booking agent.

22 January 2013

San Francisco's Hook, Baltimore's Second Half Shutout, and Tom Brady's Donut

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

For most of the week, the sporting world was caught up with a guy with one testicle admitting to using drugs and another story about a guy with a fake girlfriend. And how about the NFL conference championships? They were just a formality because everyone was prepping for a San Francisco v. New England Super Bowl match-up. Only one of those two "sure things" went on to advance to the Super Bowl, while the other had a disappointing end to the season.

San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24
Opening Lines: -3 and 48 o/u
Closing Lines: -4 and 49 o/u

One fact overwhelmed the betting ether: the Atlanta Falcons were the biggest #1 seed home dog in over 35 years. This was at the mighty Georgia Dome and Matty Ice's house where they were impossible to beat, yet upon closer inspection most of those wins were close shaves. It wasn't like New England's victories in which they blew out other teams by double digits. Most of the bettors were all over the San Francisco Niners (3-1 in Vegas and one offshore book took over 70% of their action on the Niners).

Casual bettors are heavily influenced by short-term memory, so images of Colin Kaepernick's pistol tearing holes in Green Bay's defense were dancing inside their heads as they bet the Niners. Didn't matter where the number was because San Francisco money flooded the books from the moment the lines opened until it closed moments before at kickoff. I was in Vegas at the time and watched the opening line of -3 quickly jump -3.5 within minutes. By the time Monday morning rolled around, the bookies moved the line to -4, and it popped as high as -4.5 before it settled on -4.

This was one of those instances when the number was crucial. The bookies kept your money if you had SF -4.5. They gave it back if you had -4. And they paid you out if you had -3.5 or were one of the few lucky folks who had -3. Conversely, if you were on Atlanta, you needed that +4.5 to cash your ticket.

We had SF -3 and -3.5. I cannot stress how much betting opening lines (if you anticipate a swing the other way) and shopping for the best number is vital to long term profits.

Those half points matter. If you don't believe me, you've never been burned by the hook. I was in a good spot and had access to three different sports books within walking distance, not to mention offshore. The opportunity to shop for points is as crucial as betting an early line (provided you bet on the right side of the line move). In this instance, we got -3 and -3.5 and the line moved towards -4.5. Before the game even started, we locked in some value, and got a little extra cushion just in case the game was close.

Turns out... the game was much closer than we had hoped, especially after the Niners pissed away 10 points (on a Akers missed FG and Crabtree's fumble at the 1-yard line).

I feel like this whenever I get hosed by the zebras

The game progressed as expected. Atlanta got off to a smoking hot start, San Francisco's offense sputtered early on and it took a while to heat up. The Niners were a much better second half team, and by the time the 3Q began, both the offense and defense were firing on all cylinders. It was unfortunate for Atlanta that their defense went cold at the worst possible time and once again, their offense stalled after jumping out to a big lead. Atlanta relied on last-minute Matty Ice magic to bail them out against Seattle, but they couldn't conjure up the same heroics against San Francisco.

We were on the OVER and it wasn't much of a sweat in the first three quarters. The Niners have a premier defense, but they were facing Matty Ice and his high-flying receiving corps (Jones/White tore them up in the first half). And on the flip side, Atlanta's defense was among the worst still left in the playoffs. Even when San Francisco got off to a slow start, you almost knew it was a matter of time before they got on the board.

Baltimore 28, New England 13
Opening Lines: -9 and 51
Current Lines: -7.5 and 51.5

I learned about Baltimore the hard way. I bet against Baltimore (at home too) and backed Indy in the Wild Card. I bet against Baltimore again in the Divisional Playoffs and backed Peyton Manning and Denver. I was horribly wrong both times and it cost me a pretty penny. I vowed not to bet against them in a game against New England... unless I could lock up +10 or better. The closest I got was +9.5 and I cannot believe I was haggling over a half a point instead of pulling the trigger. Instead, I teased down New England with San Francisco... both teams that I was convinced were headed to the Super Bowl. The Niners prevailed, but New England fell short of the mark. Way short.

Joey Flacco's sizzling run in the playoffs continued. He did not throw an interception and has zero in three games this postseason. That's one of the main reasons why Baltimore is headed to the Super Bowl. The zero INTs is impressive considering that Flacco has been gambling it up by flinging the ball down field and letting Boldin/Smith do their thing. Both receivers have done amazing jobs getting separation against opposing cornerbacks. And kudos to Flacco for getting them the ball at the right moments. Baltimore needed to perfectly execute that part of their offense in order to win each game... and they got the job done.

In the first half, New England played well enough to have a 13-7 lead, even though a rare brain fart by Brady cost them four points. Shamus wrote about that incident in The Patriots Slide, Then Fall.

A halftime lead was New England's supreme comfort zone because New England never blew a halftime lead. Every opposing coach knows that you have to out-execute New England and get out to a lead in the first half otherwise Belichick's crack staff will tweak their game plan and shut everything down in the second half.

But following halftime, Baltimore outplayed New England on both sides of the field. Just like in their game against Denver, Baltimore's second half defense kept them in the game long enough to give Flacco and company a chance to bust it wide open with three TDs in the second half. It didn't help New England when they lost their best defender CB Aqib Talib to a leg injury.

Baltimore's defense shutdown Brady completely. Zero points in the third quarter, followed up by zero points in the fourth. New England failed to execute their running attack in the second half. They rushed for 77 yards in the first half and Baltimore struggled to stop them. Due to an head injury to Stevan Ridley (he got hit so hard that he fumbled the ball and Baltimore recovered), New England abandoned the running game and only rushed the ball six times in the second half. The offense had incurred several setbacks with Gronk sidelined, Woodhead banged up and Ridley's wooziness. Without having to worry about the run, Baltimore's offense keyed in on Brady and his favorite targets.

I expected New England to win by a touchdown 31-24 in a high scoring game; however, New England's offense put up a big fat donut in the second half as Baltimore prevailed 28-13

Bettors backed New England and the OVER in New England games heavily this year and the bookies got killed on those games. The bookies won some of that back because most of the tickets for Baltimore/New England were on the over. The wiseguys bet Baltimore heavily and helped balance out the money even though majority of the public was on New England.

* * *
Looking ahead to the Super Bowl lines... a couple of casino-based books (like the Wynn) in Vegas opened up San Francisco -5 and they got hammered with Baltimore money and quickly adjusted to -4.5. The opening line was -4.5 in mostly everywhere else in Vegas and -4 at offshore shops (although Pinnacle opened at -3.5). The line at Pinnacle jumped to -4.5 then -5.5 before coming back down to 4 or so. The consensus line (offshore + in Vegas) keeps wavering back and forth between -4 and -3.5.

The total opened at 50 in some Vegas books and it got pushed down significantly to -48.5. Off shore opened the line around -48.5 and it's been hovering at -47.5 ever since it bottomed out.

Currently... we have positions on UNDER 49 and San Francisco -3.5.

21 January 2013

Patriots Slide, Then Fall

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

“Damn... the Pats are smart.”

Such was my thought near the end of the first half of the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday. I even said it out loud to my wife, and as a result had to explain myself further.

As I explained to her, after appearing in control for much of the first half, New England had just run a clever play with about a minute to go. Facing a fourth-and-1 on the Ravens’ 34-yard-line, the Pats lined up to go for it, then quarterback Tom Brady looked to sideline with his hands raised as if to suggest the headset in his helmet was malfunctioning.

That’s when the ball was snapped directly to running back Danny Woodhead standing alongside Brady, and Woodhead promptly dashed through a hole over the left guard for a nifty seven-yard gain and a first down. Up 10-7 and with two timeouts remaining, the Patriots appeared primed to punch it in once more to take a 10-point lead to the locker room at the half.

Three plays later the Pats were inside the red zone with another first down, at which point they took their second timeout of the half. Then came a most curious, unexpected sequence.

Chased from the pocket, Brady scrambled down to the Ravens’ 7, a play that culminated with him sliding and kicking his leg high in the air. Baltimore safety Ed Reed -- trying to halt his progress so as to avoid hitting the sliding QB (and thus incurring a penalty) -- leaped in the air and Brady’s cleat connected with the side of Reed’s knee as he went past, changing the defender’s direction and causing him to land somewhat awkwardly.

“Damn... that was dumb,” I thought.

I didn’t articulate my thought this time, being a little too intent on watching the end of the half play out. During a subsequent replay commentator Phil Simms would note the leg kick, too. The former quarterback remarked how it appeared Brady was trying to protect himself, but was in fact risking injury to himself by extending his leg that way.

Never mind the risk to Reed, I thought. What was Brady thinking?

Meanwhile Brady had popped back up and 18 seconds still remained. New England surprisingly took a lot of time lining up. The confusion appeared real this time, not feigned. Finally the apparent chaos concluded with Brady calling their last timeout with just four seconds left. They’d blown a chance (or a couple, even) at firing some end zone passes and going for seven, and now had to settle for three.

“Damn... that was really dumb,” I thought. (It’s easy to criticize from the couch, I know.)

Thus did was the lead but 13-7 going to halftime, the difference being just one score instead of two. As we’d later learn, New England had been an incredible 67-0 when leading at halftime in games quarterbacked by Brady. This is why (as I mentioned a week ago) I always pick the Pats.

If you’d asked me at the half on Sunday, I would’ve picked the Pats again. But that weird sequence -- the slide, then letting those seconds slip away -- suggested a possibility that such an outcome wasn’t completely assured.

Like Brady’s right leg being raised into the air, New England suddenly seemed like they could be vulnerable.

I’m not big on non-specific, non-concrete reasons for one team performing better than another. In other words, as much as the soon-to-retire Ray Lewis and his dances and sermons might be energizing his teammates, they still have to have the physical ability and mental acuity to execute plays and collectively out-execute the opposition. So I’m a lot more apt to credit the Ravens with having made strategic adjustments at halftime on both sides of ball that resulted in better play-calling, better on-field decisions, and ultimately better execution by Baltimore than New England.

In the press conference afterwards, Joe Flacco addressed all of the surrounding “talk” and other factors and explained how all of that means a whole lot less than people think it does. He also noted how at the half Ravens coach John Harbaugh had instructed the team to open things up and how those adjustments helped Baltimore come out and dominate on their way to a 28-13 victory on Sunday.

That said, I can’t help but think back to that one brief end-of-half sequence as a game-changer, a sequence that signaled to the Ravens that despite that 67-0 record and all the cleverness emanating from the other sideline, they still had a chance.

And having been afforded that chance, damn... the Ravens were good.

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

19 January 2013

AFC Championship Betting Preview

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

New year. Same teams.Will Baltimore get revenge this time and knock off New England, Belichick, and Brady? Or is Baltimore just a mere obstacle in the way of New England's march to the Super Bowl?

Baltimore (12-6) at New England (13-4)

Time: 20th January at 6:30 pm ET
Opening Lines: -9 and 51
Current Lines: -7.5 and 51.5

We have a rematch of last year’s AFC title game. Baltimore lost 23-20 after their former kicker Billy Cundiff missed a potential game tying FG in the last minute. Baltimore has another shot at a Super Bowl berth, but will New England be the foil for them once again? New England was upset by the New York Giants in last year’s Super Bowl, so head coach Bill Belichick had his team focused on a single mission to return to the big game and win it all.

New England (10-7 ATS) is much stronger than Baltimore (8-9-1 ATS) on paper, but will they cover -9? These two teams have historically played super close bloody-knuckle games including a slugfest in Week 3. New England was a favorite every game this season except one, when they were a +2.5 underdog at Baltimore. New England lost that game 31-30.

New England lost Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead last week due to in-game injuries, yet Tom Brady picked apart Houston’s secondary and still torched their defense for 41 points. Woodhead’s replacement, Shane Vereen, stepped up and scored two receiving TDs and one rushing TD. New England is 13-0 this season when they rush for 100 or more yards. The running back tandem of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 123 yards last week. Both of them will be a major key in this week’s battle plan.

Even without Gronk, New England’s high-octane offense is tough to stop. This has all the elements for a high-scoring game. Baltimore caught several breaks in a double overtime victory against Denver, but they never gave up when they fell behind. Baltimore’s defense, anchored by Ray Lewis, created a huge turnover in overtime and intercepted Peyton Manning, which helped set up a winning FG. You almost have to take the points here with Baltimore, only because Joey Flacco is a stupendous quarterback on the road in the playoffs. Flacco is on a heater over the last two playoff games (against Indianapolis and Denver) with 613 passing yards, 5 TDs and zero interceptions.

If Baltimore is going to win… Flacco will have to keep gambling it up by attacking New England down field with bombs to Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and last week’s hero Jacoby Jones. Baltimore’s offensive line must win the battle of the trenches and keep New England away from Flacco (O-line only gave up one sack last week vs. Denver), and help open up running lanes for Ray Rice. If Rice gets rolling early on, it’ll alleviate some of the Flacco’s offensive burden. On defense, Baltimore must shut down WR Wes Welker (131 yards vs. Houston), who has killed them over the last few seasons. Brady loves to spread the ball around, so they cannot overlook anyone on New England’s roster (e.g. third string RB Shane Vereen, who scored 3 TDs and posted 124 combined yards vs. Houston). Brady also doesn’t like to get pushed around. If the Ravens can crank up the pressure early on, they might get Brady out of sync. Baltimore’s run D held Denver to 125 yards in 5+ quarters of play and will be looking to shut down Stevan Ridley. Baltimore’s secret weapon is rookie kicker Justin Tucker (30 of 33 FGs in the regular season), who kicked a clutch game-winning FG last week in Denver.

If New England is going to win… their defense has to shut down Ray Rice (131 yards and 1 TD vs. Denver) and the running game, and their secondary cannot let Boldin and Smith sneak behind them. CB Aqib Talib will get the assignment to shadow Smith, and Talib has enough speed to keep up with him. Busted coverage led to Denver’s demise last week, so New England has to set up a no-fly zone and shut down Flacco’s long-range aerial attack. New England’s premier pass rusher, Chandler Jones, injured his ankle last week and they hope he’ll be effective as part of the pass rush that harasses Flacco. Brady will keep Baltimore’s defense on its toes with no huddle and hurry up offense. New England struggled to establish an effective rushing game in Week 3’s loss to Baltimore, but they’ll look to run the ball down Baltimore’s throats with a one-two combo of Ridley and Vereen. Gronk’s injury is a huge loss any way you cut it, but New England went 4-1 without Gronk in the regular season, and Aaron Hernandez (85 receiving yards vs. Houston) is more than capable of being a primary target in the Red Zone.

Pauly's Prediction: New England 31, Baltimore 24

NFC Championship Betting Preview

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

We're down to the final four in the NFL. For a brief moment last weekend, NFC Championship looked like it was going to be a battle of the NFC West with Seattle taking on San Francisco. But... big but... Atlanta spoiled one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history and beat Seattle in the last minute (yet failed to cover by a half a point). Atlanta takes on San Francisco in a rare instance in which they are a home dog as a #1 seed.

San Francisco (12-4) at Atlanta (14-3)

Time: 20th January at 3:00 pm ET
Opening Lines: -3.5 and 48 o/u
Current Lines: -4 and 49

San Francisco (10-7 ATS) wants to exorcise demons from last year and avenge a loss in the NFC Championship to the New York Giants. Only Atlanta (9-7-1 ATS) stands in their way from advancing to the Super Bowl.

Over the past few seasons, Atlanta has been the team that can’t win the big game. They are one victory away from getting a shot at erasing that reputation. But do they have enough defense to contain Colin Kaepernick? And can Matty “Ice” Ryan and the offense figure out how to score on San Francisco’s menacing defense?

Last weekend, San Francisco beat Green Bay at home by keeping QB Aaron Rodgers in double-check. The Niners are coming into the NFC Championship as the team to beat. Meanwhile, no one has confidence in Atlanta, after their defense imploded and blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter against Seattle last week. Although Atlanta and Matty Ice managed to come back to win the game with 30 seconds left, the pundits, bookies, and bettors all agreed that San Francisco is the better team on paper. Since 1978, Atlanta (at +3.5) is the biggest home dog of any #1 seed, especially in a conference championship game.

Matty Ice is 34-5 straight up at home (8-1 this season), but he’s 0-5 ATS in the playoffs. Matty Ice is the primary weapon in Atlanta’s offensive arsenal and he has a trio of receivers (Julio Jones, Roddy White, and TE Tony Gonzalez) who can go deep on any play. Their run game was bad all season long, yet sprang to life last week against Seattle. Michael Turner looked like his old self with 98 yards on only 14 carries (including one explosive run for 30+ yards), and backup Jaquizz Rodgers was also highly effective with 64 yards on 10 carries. Turner/Rodgers combined for 162 yards, or almost double than their 87.3 yards/game average during the regular season.

Atlanta’s weak defense (ranked #24 overall in the regular season) has some experience against mobile quarterbacks. They played Carolina and Cam Newton twice this season and they also defeated RG3 (Washington) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) in the playoffs. Atlanta’s D is crappy, but they will not be totally caught off guard like Green Bay who failed to counteract Colin Kaepernick’s pistol offense. It comes down to this… will Atlanta's defense be able to stop Kaepernick and force him into creating turnovers? Can Atlanta get a couple of stops in the Red Zone or force San Francisco and their back-up kicker to convert field goals into points?

RB Frank Gore’s 119 yards on the ground against Green Bay went overlooked because everyone sprained their necks watching Kaepernick obliterate Green Bay for 181 yards on the ground. It didn’t matter if it was Gore or Kaepernick… no one on the Packers could stop the rushing attack. Even Clay Matthews look befuddled like a rube tourists in Times Square getting hustled ay Three Card Monte. Atlanta is going to have their hands full on defense, which is why it will be up to Matty Ice on the offensive side to outgun San Francisco if they want a ticket to the Super Bowl.

If San Francisco is going to win… their cornerbacks have to smother Jones/White and make Atlanta’s inconsistent rushers beat them on the ground. The Niners always lose games when they allow 140 yards or more on the ground, so thwarting any running attack is major objective. San Francisco’s interior linebackers, Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, will be waiting to stuff Turner and/or Rodgers. Justin Smith’s health (torn tricep) was a big question mark last weekend, but he played most of the game. However, it will be up to Aldon Smith to get to Matty Ice as much as possible. On offense, Kaepernick must keep his cool and not turn the ball over. RB Frank Gore is a reliable beast and will help them ground and pound the ball and eat up tons of yardage against Atlanta’s weak middle. If Kaepernick continues to do what he’s been doing by accurately reading opposing defenses, then he’ll give Atlanta’s defense headaches all game long. Kaepernick must also stretch out Atlanta’s defense by getting the ball to Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss as much as possible.

If Atlanta is going to win… they have to win the battle of the trenches on offense and keep Aldon Smith as far away from Matty Ice as possible. Atlanta also has to establish the run even though they were one of the worst running teams all season long. Atlanta got two stellar performances from Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers in last week's win over Seattle, and hope they can replicate those big numbers. But who knows if Turner has any gas left in his aging tank? On defense, Atlanta’s pass rush and John Abraham have to hone in on Kaepernick, keep him in the pocket, and make him beat them in the air. They'll also have to limit Frank Gore's contributions and not let him run right over them.

 Pauly's Projection: San Francisco 27, Atlanta 23

18 January 2013


By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

When Colin Kaepernick threw the Pick-Six on the 49ers first posession of the Divisional Playoff round against the Packers, my son AJ, 11, pounded his fist into the couch pillows. I managed to raise my own distraught head to look over at him and I could see the first vestiges of tears welling in his eyes. “Stop!” I said. “It’s early.” He started to protest, but I silenced him with a hand, a quivering hand that I attempted to wield as a charm against the very same thoughts creeping into my head regarding his youth and inexperience--Kaepernick's not AJ's--and the worst possible start for the fresh-faced QB. The hand worked on AJ, at least, and he went back to texting with the girl up the street.

AJ has always been hyper-competitive (no idea where he gets that) and thoroughly against any kind of injustice, especially those injustices perpetuated against him (and his teams) by hack referees and umpires and players who make bad plays (he still won't speak the name of Kyle Williams). But the crying thing bugs me. Of course, there is precedent. It’s in his blood.

The first time I ever shed tears of joy (I am far more likely to cry when happy than I am when sad or angry) over a sporting event was “The Catch” game. Montana-to-Clark. Niners over the Cowboys. The strange thing was the tears were not for me, but for my father.

My Dad told me stories about the 49ers for as long as I can remember and in every one of those stories, the villain was the Dallas Cowboys. The 1970 NFC Championship game, where John Brodie threw two brutal interceptions, which Dallas turned into 14 points in the last game at old Kezar Stadium. The next year, same game, but in Dallas, when the Cowboys defense throttled the Niners, holding them to three points. And then the next year--AGAIN!--the worst of all, when Roger Staubach came off the bench to erase a 28-13 fourth quarter deficit, sending the Niners to their third straight playoff defeat at the hands of America’s Team. Dad told me all this as the Niners were suffering through a half-dozen under-.500 seasons. I got the feeling he was trying to keep me interested in rooting for his team ("They used to be good, I swear!"), instead of flirting with the nearby, dangerous--and therefore appealing--Oakland Raiders or more successful teams with cooler nicknames like Purple People Eaters and Orange Crush and Steel Curtain.

He needn’t have worried. For no reason that I can remember, my first football love was Stanford. It might have been the way they threw the ball much more than in the pros. But Cardinal quarterback Guy Benjamin was my first favorite player. Wide receiver Kenny Margerum was my second. Elway? Meh. Anyway, as you all know, Stanford coach Bill Walsh got hired by the Niners. That was the day I truly became a 49ers fan (and I love the symmetry of Jim Harbaugh taking the same path).

My Dad wasn’t home that Sunday when Montana-to-Clark became an historic moment (and later, the name of a racehorse I would bet on every time it ran). He sold real estate, so worked a lot of Sundays. In fact, between his job and my soccer schedule (and church, don’t forget church!), we weren't able to watch a whole lot of football together. I more vividly recall us listening to games on the radio while driving to and from soccer games.

I had watched the first half at my friend Jerry’s house and then scooted home for the rest. Instead of watching in the family room, I insisted on being alone, in my parents’ bedroom, quite literally perched on the edge of the bed and viewing the game on a 12” screen. My parents’ room was at the end of a long hallway, which lent itself quite nicely to a game I invented. I’d start running from the other end of the hall (the laundry room), get up a full head of steam, and dive onto their king-sized bed. If my brother was home, he’d be in the area of the vanity firing a Nerf ball at me (we tried it with actual footballs first and... well... there was damage), which I’d try to catch. More often, my brother would be out doing things I wouldn’t do and I’d have to throw the Nerf sometime before the bed, lofting it in front of me before laying out trying to catch it, while also sometimes dragging my feet so they would clip the edge of the bed, thus putting me off-balance and needing to make a Lynn Swann-ian circus catch.

So this really was the perfect place for me to see Clark jump higher than he’d ever been able to jump in his whole life to snag that pass on his fingertips.

What is often lost in memories of this game is that the Cowboys still had almost a minute left on the clock and needed only a field goal to smite the Niners and my Dad once again. Danny White quickly got them to midfield, but Lawrence Pillers sacked him and he fumbled. When the Niners fell on the ball, that’s when I started crying. For joy. Pure joy.

There were no cell phones then. I couldn’t call Dad. I just remember wanting to know how he felt when the game ended and to celebrate with him. I couldn’t wait until he got home. Moments like this are the thing we’ll always have. When I talk to Dad on the phone now, if the conversation wanes, I can always bring up the Niners--or any sports, really--because these are the things he taught me. Blitzes and post routes and hit-and-runs and backdoor cuts.


“He’s going!” I screamed. “He’s going!” When Kaepernick stunned the entire sports-loving world last Saturday with his 56-yard TD scamper in the third quarter--mouths agape, heads shaking, nothing but green grass and nary a Packer within hailing distance--I was shouting at the TV and my boy, still focused on his “likes” on Instagram and texting with his classmates, raised his eyes to see #7’s vapor trail. “Wow!” he said and raised his hand. High Five. Glad he was there to watch it with me. And on Sunday, I hope it’s me crying--for joy--and not him.