Friday, November 23, 2007

Week 12: Turkey parlay with rice

All shopped out? Sick of leftovers yet? Want to throttle your house guests with a spare drumstick? Fear not, the football picks are here, salve for your weary soul:

Bears -2.5 vs. Denver -- the Broncos played on Monday night, so going on the road after a short week should help even the middling Monstrosity of the Midway to win by a field goal.

Browns -3.5 vs. Houston -- I'm liking the Brownies, I really am. Anderson, Edwards, Winslow, even decrepit ex-con Jamal Lewis, plus a revamped offensive line. I don't care if they win this one 44-40, just win it by four, baby.

Titans/Bengals over 47.5 -- Tennessee also played on Monday night and has a road game after a short week. That should open the door for the Bengals to score some points. And we all know how generous the Cincinnati defense has been in recent years.

Ravens/Chargers over 38.5 -- Kyle Boller has been a human enema for the Ravens, facilitating smoother ball movement since replacing Steve "The Statue" McNair under center. Plus the Chargers, for all their faults, can put points on the board, especially at home.

Patriots -22.5 vs. Eagles -- Seriously, can you even picture the Pats scoring fewer than 38 points in a home game against a mediocre NFC team? And if they hit 38, the Eagles will have to score 16. No matter how high Vegas pushes the number, the Pats just seem to rise above it. You can't even bet on the total in this game -- even the oddsmakers are afraid of the Patriots.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spend like a patriot

Before President George W. Bush leaves office, he has a chance to leave a true legacy this nation will remember far longer than Plamegate, Attorneygate, Torturegate, JeffGannongate or Bulgeinthebackofhisjacketgate.

He can officially make the day after Thanksgiving "National Shopping Day."

Maybe that name isn't strong or catchy enough. "Spend Like a Patriot Day" has a bit of a nationalistic ring to it. "Fight Terror at the Mall Day" might be taken too literally. "Shop 'Til We Drop the Terror Alert Level to Blue Day" probably won't fit on calendars but it's going down the right path, at least. With the Hollywood writers on strike, I'm sure the guys from "24" would be happy to put their pointy heads together and come up with something more pertinent.

Anyway, why should this Friday be Dubya's big day? Well, of course you recall that in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01, instead of asking the country to pull together, make sacrifices and support the war effort (as this great country's citizens have done in wartime before), the President exhorted us to get out and spend until we're blue in the face. A strong economy, you see, is good for the country, or at least the country-club fundraisers that keep the Republican political machine well-oiled.

And what day could be more emblematic of our country's blind fealty to the Almighty Dollar than the day after Thanksgiving? I can't wait to tune into my local TV newscasts on Friday to see footage of crowds of crazed shoppers shoving through the doors at 6 a.m. to be the first to get their grubby paws on a bunch of cheap, plastic crap tainted with Chinese lead that's marked down seven percent from its usual ridiculous price.

Wait, did I say 6 a.m.? That's for pussies. I just saw an ad on the teevee telling me that Kohl's will be open at 4 a.m. Friday morning. That's right, four o-friggin-clock in the blessed a.m. How would you like to be one of the Kohl's employees who drew the short straw for that shift? "Sorry honey, we're going to have to settle for turkey bacon and savory stuffing omelets because I need to be in bed by halftime of the Lions game so I can get to work on time."

But that's just the kind of can-do spirit all of us U.S. Americans can be proud of. Don't we deserve an official holiday to commemorate our willingness to fight the terrorists at dawn in the K-Mart parking lot?

So let me be the first to wish you a happy National Shopping Day, Bush willing. Now get to bed. You've got to carpool with the Dunkin Donuts guy on Friday to get the bargains.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm pretty sure I've heard that one before

A friend and former colleague of mine often uses his blog to investigate and opine on the inanity of the corporate buzzword culture. His most recent "lang-alert" shines a cruel spotlight on the phrase "move-forward-basis" -- it's a must-read for those of you who cringe at overused business lingo or play buzzword bingo at staff meetings.

Of course, being a sports guy and language buff, I've noticed the same phenomenon going on for years in sports announcing. It seems to be especially rampant in football, which is the sport treated most like a business -- frequent meetings, special insider language, and overwhelming arrogance being the hallmarks of each.

So, here's the first of periodic entries discussing the cliches and buzzwords that drive me nuts during sports telecasts. Today, we're going to be treated to a rare three-for-one, in which the announcer hit a rare jargonized trifecta in one breath.

On Saturday, I was watching the last gasps of the Gophers' 1-11 season, a seven-point loss to the University of Wisconsin, televised on the Big Ten Network (my home being one of about 34 in the country to receive the startup channel). One of the announcers -- some clown named Chris Martin -- was analyzing a leaping grab by tight end Travis Beckum (amazingly avoiding the obvious "bend it like ..." pun, thank you very much), when he uttered the following gem:

"Beckum can (1) play with his hand on the ground, he can (2) make plays in space, and watch him (3) high-point this pass from Donovan."

OK, here's the translation: Beckum is sort of a hybrid between wide receiver and tight end, so Martin was trying to point out that he (1) can line up on the line of scrimmage as well as (2) gain yardage when he catches the ball with nobody around him, and that on this particular play he (3) caught the ball at the apex of his leap.

Wow. That's quite a mouthful. I think "in space" will merit an entry of its own somewhere down the road, but "hand on the ground" is one of those obnoxious terms the football-obsessed use when talking with each other. You hear it constantly in the month leading up to the NFL Draft. Basically, it's a more colorful way of saying a guy can play on the line -- either on offense or defense.

But using "high-point" as a verb? Bravo, Mr. Martin. I'm in awe of your talkability.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 11

Here's the winning ticket for Week 11:

Browns -2.5 at Baltimore
Patriots -15.5 at Buffalo
Packers -9.5 vs. Carolina
Lions +2.5 vs. New York Football Giants
Houston/New Orleans over 47.5

The rationale: the Browns can score and the Ravens can't; the Patriots are unstoppable and with Marshawn Lynch on the pines, the Bills won't be able to hang onto the ball; the Packers are charmed and the Panthers are playing Otto Graham at QB this week; the Lions are God's Team and the Giants built that 6-game winning streak against a bunch of chumps; and Andre Johnson is back for the Texans so there should be points aplenty in that one.

Long week

Well, I'd better at least recap last week before we look at this week's NFL games. I went 4-for-5 on my parlay, with only the Eagles' fourth-quarter comeback against the Skins costing me the money. I was just a touch frustrated as I watched the green helmets matriculate down the field with impunity because I felt so confident (and rightly so) about the rest of my picks.

Not much else is going on in my world. Sorry so boring. I'll have more tomorrow, however.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The 5-teamer, Week 10

In my never-ending quest to beat the wise guys at their own game, here's what to look for in the NFL tomorrow:

Buffalo -2.5 at Miami
Cincinnati +4.5 at Baltimore
Washington -2.5 vs. Philadelphia
Dallas -1.5 at the Giants
IND/SD under 48.5

One of the problems with betting on the NFL this year is that there are so many terrible teams, and even more mediocre teams, that you have to bet on one of them when you're picking a parlay. It's even worse when New England has a bye week.

My rationale here is that Miami is just pathetic and the Bills are at least a field goal better than them on the road, the Bengals should score enough to stay close to the offensively challenged Ravens, the Skins are tough at home and the Eagles are terrible everywhere, the Cowboys are one of the few teams you can feel good about no matter where they are playing, and the Colts will keep the ball on the ground enough (if they watched the game films from Adrian Peterson's evisceration of the Chargers last week) to keep that game under its inflated total.

By the way, if you're interested, my friend Smooth Jimmy St. Paul turned me onto a fascinating article about betting lines on nationally televised games. The gist of the article is that sports books will crank up both the spread and the total because people like to bet on games they're going to watch, and they like to bet on favorites and on the over (because who wants to root against points being scored?). So the smart money on most Sunday and Monday night games is on the dog and the under, or so the theory goes. Food for thought, at least, and perhaps it figured into my Colts-Chargers under pick.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Welcome to music hell

People who know me well know that I'm into the live music scene. Or at least I was in Minneapolis. I'd get to a couple shows a month, at First Ave or the 400 or the Turf Club, wherever great bands played in the Twin Cities.

So on the surface, you'd think the move to Las Vegas -- The Entertainment Capital Of The World! -- would have worked out well for me. Except that it hasn't.

That's because the bands I like, the bands who would play First Ave or the 400 or the Turf Club, generally don't play Vegas. I've seen a couple decent shows as part of the Vegoose Festival -- Beck two years ago, Jenny Lewis last year -- and I've seen the Decemberists, the Drams, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Hold Steady in the last year. I also missed a chance to see Rilo Kiley last month when I happened to be back in Minnesota.

But that's it. That would have been a good month for me in the past. Now, it's a good year. That was hammered home to me last week when I got the following e-mail from Ticketmaster, promoting upcoming Las Vegas shows:

On Sale This Week
Check out these event(s) that matched your interests.
Tool Tool
Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort
Las Vegas, NV
Thu, 12/13/07 more dates
On Sale Sat, 11/03/07
Other events going on sale in your area.
Nathan Burton Comedy Magic
V Theater at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
Thu, 11/22/07 more dates
On Sale Wed, 10/31/07
Bryan Adams
The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
Fri, 02/08/08 more dates
On Sale Sat, 11/03/07
MANILOW : Music and Passion
Las Vegas Hilton
Las Vegas, NV
Tue, 03/04/08 more dates
On Sale Sat, 11/03/07
PURE New Year's Eve Celebration
The Colosseum At Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, NV
Mon, 12/31/07
On Sale Wed, 10/31/07
Jonathan Davis of Korn
House of Blues Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
Tue, 12/11/07
On Sale Fri, 11/02/07
That's right -- Tool, Bryan (not Ryan) Adams, Barry Manilow, and the guy from Korn (not even all of Korn, just the guy from Korn). That's what I've got to look forward to here in the next two months or so.

So I've got a new slogan for the LVCVA. "Vegas: It's kind of like if they moved the Medina Ballroom to Branson!" Or, alternatively, "Vegas: The Mystic Lake of the West!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Week 9: What we learned

Well, we learned that I was darn close to playing with the house's money for the rest of the year. Here was my five-team parlay: Lions -2.5 vs. Denver, Bills +0.5 vs. Cinci, Cowboys -3.5 at Philadelphia, Chargers -7.5 at Minnesota, and Patriots -5.5 at Indianapolis. So, if not for the historical greatness of Adrian Peterson (link to my pal Dave Campbell's game story) and the curious non-return of a fumble by Roosevelt Colvin (who could have turned right and headed into field goal range), I might have been rolling in the Station Casinos' money tonight.

We also learned that the NFC might not be as bad as the AFC after all. Check out how NFC teams fared in interconference games this week:

  • Detroit beat Denver 44-7 as 3-point favorites
  • Green Bay won 33-22 at Kansas City as 2.5-point underdogs
  • The Vikings spanked San Diego 35-17 as 7.5-point dogs
  • New Orleans hammered Jacksonville 41-24 as 3.5-point favorites
  • Washington beat the Jets 23-20 in OT as 3-point road favorites
  • Tennessee beat Carolina 20-7 as 7.5-point favorites
  • Cleveland beat Seattle 33-30 in OT as 3-point home favorites
So ... the NFC went 5-2 straight up, 4-1-2 ATS, 2-0-1 ATS as favorites, 2-0 ATS as dogs ... all in all, a good week for the weaker conference.

Oh, and the Vikings just signed Koy Detmer. The rich get richer.