Saturday, December 22, 2007

OK, here we go ...

Two weeks left of the NFL season and two more chances for me to play with the house's money. I've got my five-teamer in, but this week I'm not going to release it to the three of you reading this blog, because I don't want to jinx it. I feel good about it, or maybe I'm just whistling past the graveyard.

The weekend got off to an inauspicious start when my BYU-under parlay went up in smoke, thanks to the bone-headed move by the Cougars late in the first half. All they had to do was kneel on the ball twice inside their own 10-yard line and take a 17-6 lead into the half. Instead, they try to run the ball, and predictably they fumble. UCLA recovers, scores a TD two plays later, and carry all the momentum into the half.

The Cougars held on to win 17-16, but take away that freebie touchdown and they cover as well. Thanks a lot, Bronco Mendenhall. You're a disgrace to Broncos everywhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Better safe than sorry

I'm sure some Twins fans are lamenting the fact that they didn't even pursue Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cubs this week.

I, for one, am glad they didn't throw their hat into that ring. I've got nothing against Japanese players, and I sure wish Carl Pohlad would spend some of his billions on quality players instead of carrying out his plan to line his coffin with $1,000 bills.

But can you even imagine the hysteria at WCCO when Sid would try to pronounce "Fukudome" for the first time? Or even the 50th time? Face it, the Twins did their old broadcast partner a favor by saving them from multiple FCC obscenity fines.

And if Bob Casey were still the public address announcer at the dome, all bets would be off. That would have been a press box moment I would have flown back to witness.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That's ----in' teamwork!

The sports world provided us two interesting examples of what some people think it means to be a good teammate in 2007. The first came on Monday night at the New Orleans Saints-Atlanta Falcons game, which happened to coincide with the sentencing of Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick on his dogfighting conviction.

After scoring a touchdown, the Falcons' Roddy White yanked up his jersey to reveal the slogan "Free Mike Vick" scrawled on his t-shirt. And in pregame introductions, defensive back DeAngelo Hall waved a Michael Vick poster at the fans and cameras.

White explained his actions thusly: "It ain't too much to say, you know. The team misses him and we really need him this season. There ain't too much more to say about it."

Hall said, "We did that for the simple fact we wanted to let him know we're still thinking about him."

OK, nice sentiments and all, and I guess I can stomach Hall's actions without major nausea. But White's t-shirt says all you need to know about the mentality of many of our fellow travelers. "Free" Vick? He's not Nelson Mandela. He hasn't been wrongly convicted -- in fact, he has admitted his crime and, at least on the surface, has said that he accepts his punishment. There's no need to "free" him from the bonds that he himself has accepted.

And if White really wanted to let Vick know that they needed him this season, that maybe they wouldn't be 3-10 and searching for a new head coach for the second time in 11 months if Vick hadn't been such a moron -- perhaps a better message on the t-shirt would have been, "F-U Mike Vick!"

On the other end of the teammate spectrum, it's hard to find a better example of leadership and even friendship than the actions of Lebron James last night. James was returning to the lineup after missing five games with a hand injury, while forward Anderson Varejao was playing his first game of the season after a lengthy holdout during which he said he didn't want to play in Cleveland.

But King James checked his ego at the locker room door and forsook what would have been a thunderous ovation during introductions, choosing instead to enter the game six minutes into the first quarter -- at the same time as Varejao -- in order to spare Varejao from a wave of boos that surely would have greeted him.

"I thought by coming in with Andy it might stop some of the boos Andy might get. Andy is one of my favorite players, I was just protecting my teammate," James said after the game.

So King James, who said he'd never started a game on the bench going back to his elementary school days, decided that his teammate's comfort level was more important than his own personal glorification. That's why he's a team leader, and schmucks like Roddy White will never be anything more than followers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My first rodeo ... literally

OK, so we're taking a break from the football talk because you certainly don't want to read my ramblings on a topic about which I apparently know so little (1-3-1 on the parlay this week).

Last night, I had another one of those "only in Vegas" moments. My beloved wife scored us front-row seats at the National Finals Rodeo, an annual 10-day event that brings in more money to Las Vegas than even the adult video awards -- seriously! I wrote all about it in this month's Las Vegas Life magazine (and yes, check out that belt buckle -- that is my name at the bottom of the oval -- kudos to the LVL art department). And since I've been writing about it, I figured I'd better go see what it's all about.

The front-row seats made the experience even better than I could have imagined. We were close enough to be peppered with clods of dirt as the horses raced past us, if you can imagine that. In fact, the rodeo was televised on ESPN2 last night and I'm guessing we were probably on TV at some point.

But the highlight came 10 minutes after we settled into our seats, when another party of four came down to join us. And for the next three hours, just two seats down from my wife was none other than Mr. Wayne Newton. We're not exactly the star-struck types, but my mother-in-law did get a photo of Mr. Las Vegas. And I thought he might get hounded by autograph seekers but the rodeo crowd played it pretty cool.

That was the highlight. The lowlight? Well, people who know me know I despised the Twins' in-game production crew for foisting Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." on us at the 7th-inning stretch for no apparent reason than to pander to the faux-patriotism crowd in post-9/11 America. And I should have been suspicious last night when representatives from our local Air Force base were handing out little American flags as we entered the building.

Sure enough, we were treated to "God Bless the U.S.A." before the national anthem, live and in person by Lee Greenwood himself. The crowd went nuts. Flags were waving. Whatever. I truly enjoyed the anthem itself, sung by another airman from Nellis AFB, and we had numerous opportunities to applaud for our boys and girls in the military as it seemed they were introduced during every break in the action. That was all very cool. I guess I'm just jaded by Lee Greenwood, because all I could do during that song was shake my head and remember the nights in the Metrodome press box when that song would send me, Brad Zellar and a few other regulars into fits of eye-rolling.

(Seriously, not to digress too much, but would it have been too hard to mix in Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" or even some Mellencamp, something less brazenly right-wing? I don't ask for much ...)

As for the rodeo itself, it was very entertaining. I enjoyed the speed of the barrel racing, the power of the bulls, the agility of the ropers, and the tenacity of the bronco riders who hung onto those bucking steeds for eight seconds like their life depended on it.

So, the rodeo joins a list with Celine Dion and NASCAR as events I never would have seen had I not moved to Vegas, as well as events I probably wouldn't pay to attend again but I enjoyed seeing anyway. Actually, I could see myself paying to go back to the rodeo, except the tickets are sold out a year in advance.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

BCS Chaos

Not to toot my own horn too much, but recently I've been hearing a number of arguments for a playoff system in Division I college football. I know this is nothing new -- I mean, really, I know that because I was doing the same thing seven or eight years ago on the pages of Channel 4000.

The plan that most closely resembles the 16-team bracket that my friend Smooth Jimmy helped me assemble is the one I saw from's Dan Wetzel, cleverly titled "The Wetzel Plan." If I remember correctly, we had a much snazzier moniker for our tournament, something like "Holiday Hysteria." And we incorporated the bowl games into the system -- the top 15 bowls would host the 15 playoff games, with the championship game rotating between the bowls that are now designated as BCS games.

Regardless of the plan, it's time for it to happen. The system right now just doesn't work. Consider this: If Missouri loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, Ohio State will play in the national championship. Missouri would have two losses, both to Oklahoma. Ohio State lost to Illinois, but doesn't have to face the Illini or anybody else in the Big Ten Championship game because there is no such thing.

And with so much parity in the NCAA these days -- due mostly to scholarship limits and TV exposure for more than just a handful of big-ticket programs -- it's ridiculous to let computers, coaches and sportswriters determine which two teams deserve to play one game to determine the national champion. The so-called "mythical national champion" that we once referred to has become more mythical than ever under the BCS.

Then again, I should be hoping Ohio State gets to face West Virginia in the title game. Wild horses couldn't keep me from laying the kids' college fund against the slow-footed, rusty Buckeyes in that one. That's one betting tip I'm giving you for free -- during the bowl season, whether you're here in Vegas or just in an office pool, you're best to bet against the Big Ten. We'll go over the matchups when they're announced, but Illinois is really the only Big Ten school that's playing a style (and has the talent) requisite to challenge a team from one of the other power conferences.

Parlay update: Last week, I went 3-for-5, with the stunning Patriots near-miss serving as an anchor to my ticket. But in a sense, I'm glad they didn't cover, because that would have been one tough 4-for-5 to swallow.

To wit: My other miss was the over on the Titans/Bengals game. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Titans were inside the Bengals 5, trailing 35-6. One more TD and we'd be over the 47.5 spot for that game. Titans running back Chris Brown found the end zone and I thought I had that one salted away ... but the Bengals challenged the spot, saying he was down inside the 1. Replays supported their challenge, leaving the Titans with a 3rd-and-goal inside the 1. Of course, they got stuffed on 3rd down, and Vince Young threw the ball away on 4th down, and the Bengals basically ran out the rest of the clock.

And that's why they call it gambling.