Saturday, December 20, 2008

Week 16: The penultimate parlay

This actually might be my last five-teamer of the year because I'm going to be in Minnesota for the next 10 days. So unless one of my local boys steps up and offers to put down my five-teamer in Week 17, this is it. Happy holidays.
  • Saints-Lions over 50.5 -- Drew Brees is going for an NFL passing record (most yardage in a season), so don't expect him to suddenly get gun-shy against the worst defense in the league.
  • Saints -6.5 at Detroit -- See above.
  • Patriots -7.5 vs. Arizona -- Cards still have nothing to play for, Pats are fighting for their playoff lives.
  • Bucs -3.5 vs. San Diego -- Chargers remain a desperate team, but in all the wrong ways. Bucs get Garcia back in a must-win game.
  • Falcons-Vikings over 43.5 -- No Fat Pat Williams means the Atlanta run game should be a bit more successful, and the Vikings are hitting their stride on offense.
Last week: 2-3
Season: 37-36-2

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To satisfy your morbid curiosity

Here's a link to the final results of the triathlon on Sunday. As I said, my only goal was to finish, so the time is irrelevant to me. You can see by the results that there were a few people behind me, and many, many people ahead of me.

I finished behind 12-year-olds, physically challenged athletes and the elderly. Those finishing behind me included people my age running with their children, people my age running with their parents, and one shirtless Hawaiian dude with a long, gray ponytail who must have gotten a late start.

But I finished, and that's what counts.

I wasn't kidding


Snow in the Vegas valley. This is the view from Kris' office window. Not the best quality image, but it was taken by a Blackberry so what do you want?

Anyway, I completed a triathlon, it snowed here in Vegas ... what's next, the Vikings winning the NFC North?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Official Triathlon Post

As an English major, words matter to me. And whenever I think about a triathlon, even though the etymology of the word is clear, the concept of the word still kinda cracks me up.

I picture some well-meaning but misinformed Stuart Smalley type, trying to motivate a friend by saying, "You're not a 'try-athlete' -- you're a 'do-athlete.'" I'm also reminded of something my old college roomie Sean used to say about former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Kreig: "He's a triple threat -- trip, stumble, fumble."

Meaning, even though I'm doing three things in one day, it doesn't mean I'm doing them well. Still, when you decide to run, bike and swim, all on the same day, you have to call it something (besides frackin' insane), so I guess triathlon is as good as the next word. Here's a little photo essay of my day:


Still at the hotel, not exactly sure what I'm getting myself into. Double-checking to make sure defibrillator is packed.

The tools of the trade: the bike, the shoes, the running/swimming shorts, the blind optimism.

I'm in there somewhere. Probably way in the back. I heard that drafting works great in the bike portion of the race, so I figured I'd try it out in the 5K as well.



This is my first foray into the world of Blogger video -- look closely and you'll notice that flash of sinewy athletic brilliance is actually me finishing the bike portion of the event, with Fiona clapping for me at the very end.

It's a good thing the swim was in a pool -- had we been in an ocean, my presence in the water might have elicited some sea monster warnings. And yes, I am doing a modified version of the backstroke. I didn't care about my time. I just wanted to finish. And my arms felt like 50-lb barbells, so I just kinda basked my way around the pool. Whatever works, right?

Back in the transition area, mission accomplished, ready for the next challenge -- walking back to the car.

On the way home, Kris asked me what I wanted for dinner. My reply was, "Anything that goes well with Guinness." That was my frothy reward, and I enjoyed it. Now it's time to find the next challenge, which likely will be another tri, this time with Kris or perhaps with old roomie Sean (see comments in Sunday's post).

Final thought: Patrick Donnelly completed a sprint triathlon. The next day, it snowed in Las Vegas. Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Success!


See that t-shirt? See that medal? See that look of satisfaction/exhaustion/exhiliration?

It's all over but the celebrating. I'll post more details and photos on Monday, but this is the smiling mug of one happy triathlete.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This is it

Yep, we're at T-minus 40 hours and counting. Hard to believe that three months of training have come to this. I've kinda stopped writing about the process lately, not because I'm not as enthused about it but because it's sort of become second nature to me -- exercise, eating better, just focusing on healthy living.

I'm excited about the triathlon as it draws ever near. A little bit scared, I guess, but as a good friend once said, "Pain is just fear leaving your body." OK, it wasn't a good friend, it was Jillian, the trainer from "The Biggest Loser," but I still thought it was interesting. I've had plenty of pain over the last three months -- sore muscles, mostly -- but there's still some fear, so I guess I haven't gone through enough pain.



I'll be sure to post my results on Monday ... either that, or I'll have my wife post the details of my funeral. But I'm hoping for the former -- as The Hold Steady says, "You gotta stay positive!"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Week 14: The grim parlay

Wrestling is such a humorless sport. I understand why -- those guys work too hard to take it lightly. Plus, defeat is so personal -- mano-a-mano, nobody to blame but yourself -- and even if you win, the potential for defeat lurks in your next match.

I covered a big collegiate wrestling tournament this weekend at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and I bet I saw maybe three wrestlers crack a smile for a grand total of 6.7 seconds over the course of two nights. The medal presentations would have been funny if they weren't so crushingly grim -- the top eight finishers in each weight class on the podium, holding plaques and staring straight ahead with the stony expression of your average pallbearer.

But like I said -- I get it. In the minds of most of those wrestlers, seven of them were losers. And the eighth guy, the one with the biggest plaque? He's already looking ahead to his next match, his next tourney, the next time he'll be called upon to stave off the icy clutches of defeat.

You can read my recaps of the tourney here and here. I hope I'm happier on Sunday night when I'm holding the ticket that features this five-game NFL parlay:
  • Colts -13.5 vs. Cincinnati -- Let's hope last week's brutal offensive showing in Cleveland was a weather-induced mulligan.
  • Titans -13.5 vs. Cleveland -- With Ken Dorsey under center, the Browns will be lucky to score again this year. At all.
  • Patriots -4.5 at Seattle -- Once again, I'm going with the "Belichick teams don't lose two straight" theory, aided by the "Holmgren teams suck in 2008" theory.
  • Cowboys/Steelers over 39.5 -- I know, Barber is out, but that will mean the Cowboys will be more inclined to throw the ball, which lengthens the game and creates multiple scoring opportunities.
  • Ravens -5.5 vs. Washington -- Just look at the numbers Baltimore's offense has been putting up lately. It's not quite up to Oklahoma's standards, but for the NFL that's pretty lofty territory.
Last week: 1-4
Season: 32-31-2

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The curious case of Sean Avery

So, I'm having a hard time getting my head around this whole Sean Avery commotion. If you haven't heard, the NHL has suspended the notorious bad-boy -- now playing for the Dallas Stars, a team that should never have existed in the first place, not that I'm still bitter or anything -- because he made a somewhat crass reference to an opponent's girlfriend.

Seriously, that's how I would refer to it -- "somewhat crass." Not "libelous" or "hateful" or even "a disgustingly typical example of the decline of today's standards of decorum as demonstrated on a daily basis by young men between the ages of 21 and 30." Because I've heard worse. In fact, I hear worse every day.

Here's what Avery had to say to the assembled press corps at a pregame skate in Calgary on Monday:

"I'm really happy to be back in Calgary. I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy-seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight."

Umm ... OK ... Sure, Avery has dated a couple of starlet/model types who have gone on to date other NHL players. And sure, Avery is known as pretty much one of the bigger jerks in the game right now (just ask Martin Brodeur).

But seriously, people -- have we reached the point where we suspend players and crank up the outrage level to code-red when a professional athlete says something tacky or classless? His comments weren't racist. You could argue that they're borderline sexist, although I view them as primarily directed at the players in question, not at his exes.

The only way this approaches the level to which NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has taken it is if you know the "textbook" definition of sloppy seconds, as offered by Urban Dictionary (possibly NSFW, definitely NSF anybody who's easily offended). But the term has pretty much slipped into common usage to the degree that it has lost most of its original meaning and 99.4 percent of its shock value.

Bottom line: you just can't legislate classiness. Send him to the principal's office, give him a stern talking-to, lecture him on decorum all you want. But an indefinite suspension? That's like clearing out some cobwebs with a blowtorch.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Week 13: The 'now what?' NFL parlay

Before I get to this week's five-pack, I have to share with you, gentle readers, a quote I just read in a recap of Oregon's trouncing of Oregon State tonight. The Ducks rained on OSU's parade, essentially knocking the Beavers out of the Rose Bowl (unless USC somehow finds a way to lose to UCLA, which I think we both know they won't).

After the game, the Associated Press writer found the money quote from Oregon receiver Jaison Williams, who said, "To go out and ruin somebody's dreams like that, it feels real good."

Yeah, that's the spirit, buddy. That's what competition boils down to -- ruining other people's dreams. Sportsmanship is for dummies.

Hey, there's no I in team, but there is one in Jaison.

On to the parlay, which this week left me with the feeling of a dog who finally caught up to the car -- now what? Well, you can never have too much of the house's money, so here's my plan to bring home more of it. (Oh, and it's worth noting that my victory of a week ago was no coincidence -- the books got hammered because the over was 11-5 on the highest scoring weekend in NFL history, and favorites were 10-5-1. I had three favorites and an over among my five-pack, and the one game I had to sweat out was the Broncos-Raiders under.)

  • Bills -6.5 vs. San Francisco -- West coast teams playing the early game in the Eastern time zone are really up against it, and when you factor in the Niners' general suckiness and Buffalo's apparent resurgence, this one seems like a lock.
  • Packers -3.5 vs. Carolina -- Which Packers will show up? At Lambeau, I'm banking on the good Packers.
  • Giants -3.5 at Washington -- I know it's a division game and all, but the Giants are the best team in football and I'm going to ride them.
  • Colts -4.5 at Cleveland -- Two teams going in opposite directions.
  • Patriots -0.5 vs. Pittsburgh -- Should be a great game. In the end, I think the Pats win, because now that Cassell is playing well, they've got that old hop in their step again.
Last week: 5-0
Season: 31-27-2

Friday, November 28, 2008

Greed is NOT good


Well, the Christmas season got off to a rousing start -- and Black Friday took on an all-too literal meaning -- with the news that a 34-year-old maintenance worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart was trampled to death under the crush of 200 shoppers scrambling for "door-buster" bargains at 5:00 a.m. Friday.

I know every retailer is trying to do whatever it can to lure customers into its stores in this spiraling economy, and it's become such a cute little tradition to open early on the day after Thanksgiving to extend the hours of the biggest shopping day of the year. But it isn't cute anymore. When people's lives are in danger because shoppers are so desperate to get a bargain that they'll break down doors to get their hands on the last Xbox or flat-screen TV or Bratz All-Ages Club Skank (now with lower-back tattoo!), it's time to re-evaluate the whole process.

Of course, greed is the root cause of this whole mess -- the greed of the consumers, who want to BUYBUYBUY! for the lowest price possible, regardless of the cost to their dignity or the safety of their fellow shoppers and store employees; and the greed of the corporations, who need to maximize profits and keep shareholders or company executives happy, often at the expense of their own employees, who are torn away from their families at ridiculous hours (I mused about this last year in my "National Shopping Day" post -- what time do you suppose you'd have to go to bed on Thanksgiving Day so that you could be up and ready for work in time for a 5:00 a.m. store opening?).

Many, many moons ago, when the Vegas Gopher was just a Golden Gopher back in the motherland, I worked part-time at a Gap store. It was a decent job -- not exactly back-breaking work, nice people, good discount on the product -- but one thing really sucked. I had to be available to work on the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas. Non-negotiable. You WILL be scheduled for those days, and you WILL show up for your shift, or you WILL be fired.

Which meant no leisurely holiday weekends for me. No lingering over the turkey leftovers or singing carols 'round the old Tannenbaum on Christmas night for me. I had to be safely tucked away in my own bed (two hours from my parents' house or four hours from my in-laws) on those blessed nights, because two even more blessed holidays -- National Shopping Day and National Returns Day -- required my presence.

At least I lived to tell about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

House money!

Your favorite degenerate NFL gambler finally has something to celebrate -- my first successful five-team parlay of the year! As you might know, I play a five-team NFL parlay every week, sort of my own little one-man office pool. If I hit it once, it puts me in the black for the entire season (23-to-1 payoff).

I hit it once each in 2005 and 2006. I got blanked last year, and was 0-for-11 this year heading into yesterday. But I was coming off a 3-for-5 week, and had a 4-for-5 performancea week earlier, so I was feeling pretty good about my great NFL mind.

The early games didn't give me much to sweat out -- the Lions-Bucs game was well on its way to going over at halftime (21-17), and the Ravens and Pats both pulled away late, but both teams were pretty competitive through the first three quarters. Maybe I would have fretted about the Pats-Dolphins game a little more if it had been one of the late games, but by the time I realized I was staring at a 3-for-3 start, they were taking it to the Phish.

On to the late games, where I had the Falcons -1.5 and the Raiders-Broncos game under 42.5. Just before halftime, I was practically counting the money in my head, as the Falcons led 17-0 and the game in Denver was tied 3-3. Even Carolina's field goal didn't make me sweat much, but then the Raiders housed an 89-yard punt return with 1:06 to play in the half. Even after Matt Prater missed his second field goal of the half, I couldn't help but be a bit miffed that the Raiders took a 10-3 lead into the locker room, rather than a 3-3 tie.

In the second half, Carolina stormed down the field for a quick TD and suddenly it was a ballgame again in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Denver tied the game at 10 less than six minutes into the second half, and the Raiders responded with a TD four minutes later. Suddenly we were sitting on 27 points with 20 minutes to play, meaning I had a 15-point cushion. I could survive two more TDs, or a TD and two field goals, but anything more and I would be screwed.

Back to Atlanta, where the Falcons were reeling. Another John Kasay field goal cut their lead to 17-13 and the offense was struggling. The announcers (Thom Brenneman and a very impressive Brian Billick, who might have found his true calling) were saying things like, "This is a young Falcons team and a veteran Panthers lineup -- this is where it could start to slip away for Atlanta." Not good times.

But suddenly the Falcons responded. A 12-play, 80-yard drive led to a Michael Turner TD on the first play of the fourth quarter and seemed to buck up their confidence a bit. Even after the Panthers marched right back down for another TD to cut the lead to 3, the Falcons drove it right back down Carolina's throats with a 74-yard TD drive. Then the defense got rolling again, forced a punt deep in Carolina's territory, and when my new hero Harry Douglas returned it 61 yards to paydirt for a 17-point lead with 4:47 to play, the game was as good as over.

Back to Denver, where the Raiders scored another touchdown (by former Bronco Ashley Lelie -- how do you like me now, Broncos?) in the first minute of the fourth quarter, then picked off Jay Cutler and drove 43 yards for another TD, making the score 31-10 with 9:42 to play. It wasn't looking good for your favorite degenerate NFL gambler at that point -- just a simple field goal would do me in.

But because the Broncos were down by three TDs, they eschewed a long field goal attempt on fourth-and-11 at the Raiders 38 and turned it over on downs with 6:47 to play. Then Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden started tearing off yardage in chunks and the Raiders started grinding down the clock. God bless Mike Shanahan, who didn't use any of his three timeouts because it was clear that his team was done and just needed to get off the field. And God bless Tom Cable, who didn't need to boost his ego by taking a shot at the end zone. The Raiders ran the ball eight straight times, had it down to the Broncos 23 at the 2-minute warning, and when I saw them line up in the Victory formation I knew I was golden. Two Jamarcus Russell kneel-downs later and I could finally celebrate.

So, I'm playing with house money for the rest of the year, and after doing the math I realized that even with my 0-for-2007 disaster, hitting it three times in four years actually puts me in the black overall, even if I come up empty the rest of the way (17 weeks x 4 seasons = 68 weeks; 3 winning weeks x 23-to-1 odds = 69 units of profit; 69>68). And I didn't get out here to Vegas until about Week 4 of the 2005 NFL season, so that's a few more bucks in my pocket regardless.

But if I do hit it again this season, it'll be a banner friggin' Christmas at the Donnelly household this year!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Week 12: Thanks for nothing parlay

Six weeks to go and time's a-wastin'; daylight's fading, there's frost on the pumpkins, and moths flying out of my bankroll. It's time to get serious, or time to get lucky. At this point, I'd take either.
  • Patriots +1.5 at Miami -- I can't see Coach Hoodie getting swept by the Dolphins, regardless of Brady's injury status.
  • Bucs-Lions over 41.5 -- Smooth Jimmy Apollo makes this his Shoe-In of the Week. And that's a mighty big shoe.
  • Ravens -1.5 vs. Philadelphia -- This line is the head-scratcher of the year. Did everybody see the Eagles tying the Bengals last week? How are the Ravens only laying a point and a half?
  • Falcons -1.5 vs. Carolina -- This is my least confident pick. But I guess I believe in the Falcons. How's that for a ringing endorsement?
  • Raiders-Broncos under 42.5 -- This says more about the Raiders offense than the Broncos defense. And I'm hoping for snow in the Rockies.
Last week: 3-2
Season: 26-27-2

Friday, November 14, 2008

Week 11: Back to the homeland parlay

Maybe a change in venue will change my luck. I'm heading back to the homeland this weekend to visit friends and take in the concert of a lifetime for me -- The Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers, on tour together, stopping at First Avenue. I mean, these are two of my all-time favorite bands in my all-time favorite venue. What could go wrong?

And with that kind of a positive attitude, here are five winners you can take to the bank:
  • Raiders-Dolphins under 38.5 -- I don't like Oakland's offense, and I do like Oakland's defense. Oh, there are two teams playing in this game?
  • Titans -2.5 at Jacksonville -- Like last week, it won't be a blowout, but the Jags have gagged enough this year that a three-point win to keep Tennessee undefeated seems like a decent bet.
  • Chiefs +5.5 vs. New Orleans -- Tyler Thigpen. I'm wagering on Tyler Thigpen. Well smack my ass and call me Columbus, I'm wagering on Tyler Thigpen -- and I feel good about it!
  • Steelers-Chargers over 42.5 -- The Chargers can't stop anybody on the road, and the Steelers are banged-up enough on defense that even Norv Turner should figure out a way to put some points on the board.
  • Browns-Bills over 42.5 -- Did you see the Browns attempt to play defense at home last week against Denver? Did you? Then you know why I'm going with the over.
Last week: 4-1 (sigh)
Season: 23-25-2

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ahhhh ....

.... damn it all to hell, anyway! Stupid Cardinals. I knew I was in trouble when they gave up a 104-yard kickoff return for a TD on the first play of the game. They never really recovered from that -- they didn't tie the game or take the lead until the last five minutes of the game.

Other developments that killed me:
  • The Niners were 9-for-18 on 3rd down, including that scramble by Shaun Hill on 3rd-and-11 where he lost his helmet and still managed to dive past the sticks. A stop there would have forced a punt from around the SF 20 and given the Cards the ball back near midfield, down 14-13 with three minutes to play in the first half, a great chance to steal back the momentum and take a lead into the locker room. Instead, the Niners continued the drive, chewed up the rest of the half and scored a TD for good measure. A steel-toed kick to the crotch, that was.
  • The Cards rushed for only 46 yards on 19 carries. They couldn't run, period. And yet, their coaching staff still kept sending in running plays inside the red zone, where they constantly bogged down and led to this miserable stat ...
  • Arizona came away with points on each of its six trips inside the red zone, but three of those times they had to settle for field goals (and one of those TDs came on fourth down after another third-down failure). Convert just one of those field goals into a TD and they don't have to go for two (and fail) on their last TD, and I win my bet.
Oh well, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts ... I blame Obama. Change? Looks like the same old crap to me.

p.s. Both times I've started 4-for-4 on the parlay this year, the Niners have screwed me over on the final leg -- once when they collapsed against the Eagles, and once when they refused to collapse against the Cardinals. There's a lesson in there somewhere -- don't bet on or against the Niners when they're playing a team with a bird mascot? Something like that.

Do one thing for me

If you're watching TV tonight (or even if you're not), sometime between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific time, please close your eyes real tight, clap your hands and say, "I DO believe in Kurt Warner! I DO! I DO! I DO! I DO believe in Tim Hightower and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin! I DO I DO I DO!!!!"

See the previous entry if you're wondering why.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NFL Week 10: The-sky-is-blue parlay

Best line of the week comes from some wisecracker named Christian Finnegan, who comes on "Countdown" to make snarky comments once in a while. Olbermann tossed him some softball to start their conversation about life post-election, and Finnegan deadpanned, "Sorry Keith, could you repeat the question? I couldn't hear you over the heavenly choir of angels that have been singing in my head since Tuesday night."

Maybe the heavenly choirs can lead my five-game parlay to victory this week.
  • Titans -2.5 at Chicago -- Rex Grossman against the Titans D? I'm not saying it'll be a blowout, but a Titans win by at least a field goal seems likely.
  • Falcons -0.5 vs. New Orleans -- Matt Ryan, first half MVP? Best rookie QB since Marino? Biggest surprise since Britney's comeback? I'll count on him to win a game this weekend.
  • Vikings-Packers over 45.5 -- No Jared Allen (probably), a resurgent Vikings offense, and a pathetic Packers run defense trying to stop Adrian Peterson = points.
  • Chiefs +14.5 at San Diego -- I don't expect Kansas City to win, but they've done a good job of keeping games close, while the Chargers also have done a good job of keeping games close, just not in the way you'd want if you were a Chargers fan.
  • Cardinals -9.5 vs. San Francisco -- The Cards are rolling. The Niners stink. Mike Singletary's pants will be ankle-bound before halftime.
Last week: 2-3
Season: 19-24-2

Thursday, November 6, 2008

She's a rising star

The most compelling subtext to come out of this campaign is the rising-star status of a woman who used the past two months to burst onto the national scene, a smart, charming, affable woman who's a great communicator and has flashed the potential to become a cornerstone of the political scene for the foreseeable future.

I refer to, of course ... MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

What, you thought I was talking about Sarah Palin? The woman who reportedly thought Africa was a country, not a continent? Or who didn't know that NAFTA was a treaty signed by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.? Or whose much-reported $150K shopping spree apparently was much, much, much more expensive?

No, I'm not talking about her. I'm talking about the new voice of the center-left. A lesbian liberal that even Pat Buchanan can love.

If you haven't caught her show (which follows flame-thrower Keith Olbermann on a nightly basis), Ms. Maddow brings a decidedly leftist bent to her overview of the day's news, but she does it with a sprinkle of wit and a fairness and balance that Fox News could only dream of.

Maybe it's because she's a Rhodes Scholar, so she understands that you have to show all sides of an argument to give your audience enough evidence to show that you're right. Or maybe it's because she always idenfities who her guests are supporting (i.e. "Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is a Barack Obama supporter") when she introduces them.

Or maybe it's because she just flat-out rocks. Whatever, it's clear that she's kicking ass and taking names. Her ratings have blown away those of her predecessor in that time slot, and are causing the talk giants at Fox to look over their shoulders in fear.

If you're tired of the "my party, right or wrong" type of commentary that's taken over cable news at the expense of careful thought and nuance, give Rachel Maddow a shot. I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NFL Week 9: The hotter-than-Hades parlay

I've come to expect the heat. That's what you get when you move to the desert. So even though it's Halloween and there's frost on the pumpkins back in the homeland, the AC still kicks in here from time to time, I jumped into the unheated pool last week and didn't seize up and sink to the bottom like a stone, and pants are definitely for the overdressed.

We've had a couple weeks of above-normal temps -- a good 10 degrees above normal, in fact. And just when bliss is scheduled to arrive, in the form of high temps in the low 70s and cool nights requiring an extra blanket, we're headed to Phoenix for a wedding this weekend. High temps there will be in the mid-90s -- pushing record highs, of course.

Maybe I'll stay cool watching my football picks come through for me this week.
  • Cardinals-Rams over 48.5 -- Neither team plays a lick of defense, the Rams are finding themselves under Jim Haslett and Kurt Warner returns to the scene of his greatest professional success since he faced a shelf of Campbell's tomato soup cans in 23.4 seconds, a Hy-Vee record that stands to this day.
  • Giants -8.5 vs. Dallas -- When your QB choices are Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger, and you're not Brad Childress circa 2006 (or even if you are), you're screwed.
  • Eagles -6.5 at Seattle -- Philly killed me a few weeks back with a late cover at San Francisco. They'd better do it again. Cover, that is. Not kill me. That would suck.
  • Colts -5.5 vs. New England -- This means more to the Colts than the Pats. Even if they're not rubbing Tom Brady's pretty mug into the turf, the Colts will enjoy running up the score on the Hoodie.
  • Redskins -1.5 vs. Pittsburgh -- Lotta chalk this week. I just think the Skins are good enough at home to pull this out by at least two.
Last week: 1-3-1
Season: 17-21-2

Monday, October 27, 2008

Joe Buck is a tool, reason No. 7,487

Monday night's World Series game provided yet another shining example of what a tool Joe Buck is. With the wind blowing and the rain falling, the Phillies held a 2-1 lead through 4-and-one-half innings.

Now, in a normal situation, like in a regular-season game in June, if the home team is leading after the visitors have batted at least five times, the game can be considered "official" and if the weather doesn't permit further play, the umpires can call the game and the home team would be credited with a victory.

But this is the World Series -- specifically, a potential clincher for the Phillies. If you really think the brain wizards at MLB, Inc., are going to let a Series-deciding game be called due to weather, with the World Championship essentially handed to the Phillies after anything less than nine innings, you're crazy.

Or you're Joe Buck. Because once the Rays were retired in the top of the 5th, Buck couldn't stop blurting out, "It's an official game! Remember, it's official!" Meaning, "The umpires could call this thing at any minute and the Phillies would be World Champions!"

Of course, you probably know by now that the Rays scratched out a run in the top of the sixth and the game was suspended until Tuesday night, when it will be picked up with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. But instead of letting it lie, Buck had to delve back into his own personal fantasy world and say something to the effect of, "The Rays are lucky they tied the game before the umpires had called it, or this thing would be over and the Phillies would be World Champs. And what a black eye it would be for Major League Baseball to have to award its championship in such a manner."

About a half-hour later, Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed in a press conference that if the Rays hadn't scored in the 6th, the game would have been in a "rain delay" that would have lasted as long as necessary. He said there's no way MLB would allow a World Series game to end before nine innings had been played.

So, back to Joe Buck. My biggest issue with him is the smug, know-it-all attitude that oozes through the TV screen every time he's on the air. In this instance, he didn't offer any contingencies, he didn't say he was speculating, he didn't say that in the regular season, this is how a game could be called early, and wouldn't it be interesting to see what MLB would do with that rule in the post-season ... nope, he just blundered ahead like the know-it-all that he is, likely giving Rays fans chest pains for a full inning before their heroes tied the game in the sixth.

I'll be interested to see if anybody else on the sports blogs makes a big deal out of this on Tuesday. It seems like it might be one of those wonky things that only baseball nerds like yours truly would care about. Then again, the Deadspins and Awful Announcings of the world did get kinda bent out of shape this summer when Buck admitted he rarely watches sports anymore and doesn't care much for baseball. Tonight's performance in the booth in Philadelphia pretty much confirmed that for me.

Week 8: The "Ho-leeeee Crap" Parlay

Sorry I didn't post this week's parlay earlier -- see the previous entry if you're wondering why. But once I regained my bearings I found five games that I thought I liked -- here's how they turned out:

  • KC-NYJ under 39 -- I figured a gimpy Breffarve and a wet-behind-the-ears Tyler Thigpen would keep this total down. Turns out I figured wrong.
  • Bills-Dolphins under 42 -- Two good defenses, two run-oriented offenses. I got that one right -- by a point.
  • Panthers -4 vs. Arizona -- That one was a push, although I probably deserved to lose it, given that the Cards missed an extra point.
  • Falcons +8.5 at Philadelphia -- I felt good about the Falcons keeping that one close, and they did, but a late TD run by Westbrook blew their cover.
  • Giants-Steelers over 42 -- This one came up a touchdown short.
Last week: 2-3
This week: 1-3-1
Season: 17-21-2

A real jaw-dropper

If you see me walking around town with a bandage on my jaw this week, it's because I scraped it on the driveway after the shock of Friday afternoon.

I mean, imagine that you're expecting two dear friends to be flying in for a weekend visit, and you're cleaning the house and getting ready to pick them up at the airport in two hours. Then imagine that your wife calls to say she's coming home from work early. Then imagine that a bus pulls up in front of your house and 10 of your best friends pile out to help you celebrate your 40th birthday (which is still seven weeks away).

After I picked my jaw off the pavement, we had an incredible weekend filled with fun, drinks, gambling, good food and great times. Fortunately I had enough beer in the fridge on Friday to nourish the thirsty crowd as we sat poolside and had a good laugh at my cluelessness for a couple of hours. Then it was dinner and blackjack at Green Valley Ranch before we got a good night's sleep.

On Saturday, we had a poolside grillout and watched some great college football games, then met up at Planet Hollywood for some cake, World Series action, and more blackjack. After a Sunday brunch, most of the crew took off, but those who stuck around for Sunday spent the day watching NFL and World Series games, playing more black jack, and dining on lowbrow (In-n-Out) and highbrow (Settebello pizza) food.

And with all apologies to Lou Gehrig, today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A bed of bunk

The recent controversy surrounding U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her comments regarding anti-American views in Congress has been fascinating to watch. Within three days of her appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball" show, where she made the incendiary comments in response to a question from interviewer Chris Matthews, Bachmann's opponent in the upcoming election, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, raised more than $800,000 in campaign contributions, the money reportedly flowing in via the Internet from around the country.

Anybody who's followed the career of the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping, global-warming-denying Bachmann is not surprised by her viewpoints. The longer she stays in office, the more she starts to resemble Joe McCarthy in pumps -- or J. Edgar Hoover on casual Friday.

But the story did bring to light another interesting phenomenon from this campaign. On Tuesday, Bachmann tried to clarify her comments (falling back on the old "blame the media" canard, shockingly), and the StarTribune story reporting her backtracking included the following passage:

"I'm a staunch Republican supporter of hers, but I think it's going to be a factor," said Don Watkins, 72, a retired business owner. "When you look at the money the Democrats are pumping in, it's going to have an impact, no doubt about it. Whether it will cost her the race or not, I won't venture."

As for the merits of Bachmann's earlier concern that Obama may be anti-American, Watkins said, "I get a lot of e-mails on the subject, a lot of it's pretty negative regarding Obama. There's ways to check out information, but I don't have time to do it."

This highlights a point that I've been pondering for awhile now -- the misinformation out there about Barack Obama and the public's willingness to believe it. Snopes.com is a fantastic website that was founded as a collection of urban legends that we've always heard about and started to spread like wildfire once the Internet and e-mail became ubiquitous.

In election years, it's not uncommon that more and more of these urban legends concern political figures running for office. Snopes relies on regular citizens ("Joe the Plumber," if you will) to send in the e-mails they've received regarding these figures, and the good people at Snopes will research the "facts" and anecdotes to determine their veracity.

As of today, Snopes lists 42 different entries about Barack Obama -- most of them along the lines of, "Barack Obama was born in Kenya" or "Barack Obama is a Muslim," or (my personal favorite) "Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ."

Meanwhile, the McCain page includes 11 such entries, including a couple that were intended to make McCain look good but proved false. Really, only four of the 11 entries debunked myths intended to attack McCain, compared with 24 Obama myths debunked and another nine that were proven at least partially false.

So, of the 42 Snopes entries examining e-mails flying around the country about Obama, 33 of them were found to be partially or wholly inaccurate. And yet, these e-mails keep flooding the in-boxes of potential voters around the country.

Why is that? Could it be that Republicans are looking for a reason to believe that Obama is a horrible person, some "fact" (no matter how demonstrably false) they can fall back on when people ask them why they support McCain over Obama? That seems more likely than the possibility that conservatives are just more gullible than liberals -- there's a willful ignorance on display here that is not accidental.

And if a 72-year-old retired business owner doesn't have time to check out these claims, what hope do we have for the rest of the voting public?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fear and loathing in ... Maplewood?

Believe me, I'm hoping that this will turn out OK and either it'll amount to nothing, or it'll end up with a good guy getting the help that he needs, but no matter how this ends, I have to say, I want a t-shirt with this on the front:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Week 7: The WWJTPD? parlay

This week, we're turning to a new American icon to find out how the common man, the average man, the hard-working, blue-collar hero struggling to provide for his family, sees the NFL. That's right, it's time to find out: What would Joe the Plummer do?

  • Titans -7.5 at Kansas City -- "Lendale White should wear a belt with his football pants. In my line of work, I've learned that nobody wants to see your butt crack."
  • Dolphins -2.5 vs. Baltimore -- "I've been looking at Florida a lot more closely, lately. No state taxes there."
  • Bills +0.5 vs. San Diego -- "Norv Turner has bilked more NFL teams for more money than any plumber could ever dream of doing. He's my hero."
  • Texans -9.5 vs. Detroit -- "I'm an expert at identifying things circling toilets, and the Lions look pretty familiar to me."
  • Bucs -10.5 vs. Seattle -- "Seattle? Buncha latte-sipping liberals."
Last week: 4-1
Season: 14-15-1

Monday, October 13, 2008

The bad beat, or why J.T. O'Sullivan is dead to me

Every gambler has a "bad beat" story -- a tale of woe about the one that got away, the poker player who lost when an opponent drew an inside straight or the guy whose 30-to-1 longshot was leading by 10 lengths before pulling up lame with a furlong to go.

If those tales bore you, read no further. The rest of you, stick around to hear how I lost my five-team parlay to the utter incompetence of J.T. O'Sullivan.

Those of you who follow WHIH regularly know that I play one five-team parlay every week, my own office pool if you will. It pays 23-to-1, so if I hit it once, I'm playing with house money all year. I hit it once each in 2005 and 2006, but came up empty last year. And going into last weekend I was 0-for-5 thus far this year.

But I really felt good about last week's card. I won the two early games pretty handily -- the Vikings-Lions under 45.5 was the no-brainer of the season thus far for me, while the Jets laid only 6.5 against the Palmer-less Bengals and won by 12.

So I was 2-for-2 heading into the late games. Things started to turn a bit sour for me when the Cowboys and Cardinals couldn't seem to score any points. I needed them to top 50.5, but late in the first half it was 7-0 Arizona. I was doing better with my other two bets -- the Niners (+5) were staying with the Eagles, and the Seattle-Green Bay (under 46.5) game was dragging along to a 10-10 halftime score.

But with the Cards and Cowboys firing blanks in the desert, I resigned myself to another shutout weekend and headed out to pick up some groceries. It was about 4:00 p.m. when I got back into my car, and the first thing I heard on the radio was a scoreboard update. The Cowboys had just scored to cut their deficit to 24-21 with just over 2 minutes to play -- I knew if Arizona scored an insurance TD or if Dallas got the ball back and drove for a field goal, I'd win that one (24-24 going into OT, the only thing that beats me is a safety or a tie).

Then I heard that Seattle was down 27-17 with the ball deep in their own end and 3 minutes to play. Keep that game scoreless the rest of the way and suddenly I'm 4-for-4. The last I'd heard, the Niners were not only keeping it close, but they were leading 26-17 going into the fourth quarter. Well, the Eagles had come back to take a 30-26 lead, but the Niners had the ball deep in their own end with about 4 minutes to play. Since I was getting five points, all I needed was for San Francisco to mount a drive and burn some clock, or even punt the ball and let the Eagles run out the clock.

I suddenly had a hop in my step, and when I got home I raced into my office to watch the three games play out. You probably already know that Seattle did nothing with the ball and lost 27-17 (3-for-3!) and the Cowboys did force OT, whereupon the Cardinals blocked a punt and scored a TD (4-for-4!) -- though if that blocked punt had skittered through the end zone, instead of dying at the 2, I'd have been saddled with a safety and a 50-point game (i.e. a half-point loss).

That's where J.T. O'Sullivan comes into play. The journeyman quarterback whom the Niners installed as their starter this year just had to not screw up for me to win. Naturally, he screwed up. O'Sullivan was sacked and fumbled the ball inside his 20. Because the Niners had three time-outs left, the Eagles couldn't just kneel on the ball and run out the clock.

However, if Philly could run three times, burn the Niners' time-outs and get a first down, they'd surely kneel on it from there on out. Sure enough, they ran twice and the Niners stopped the clock twice, leaving the Eagles with a 3rd-and-2 from the 12. Correll Buckhalter was stopped about three millimeters short of the sticks, leaving the Eagles with 4th-and-the width of a dime for a first down. But Andy Reid played it safe, kicked the field goal, and the Eagles now led by 7.

But J.T. O'Sullivan was not done torturing me yet. The Niners got the ball back with one more shot -- a long-shot at best, but still, J.T. had the ball at his own 25 with 54 seconds to play. If he could drive the Niners to the tying touchdown and force overtime, I'd like my chances to win my bet with a field goal for either team.

On first down, J.T. got my hopes up with a 25-yard completion to midfield. But two plays later, he threw another interception -- his second of the game and third turnover in the fourth quarter -- and Juqua Parker returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to end it. San Francisco got outscored 23-0 in the fourth quarter, costing me the fifth leg of my elusive five-team parlay.

And the hunt for the great white whale continues.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week 6: The negative attack parlay

My friends, the Las Vegas oddsmakers aren't bad people. Many of them are even citizens of Henderson. They're just people with whom I have fundamental disagreements over the following five games, and that's what this parlay is all about.

  • Jets -6.5 vs. Bengals -- this line moved up to 8.5 by Friday with the news that Carson Palmer wouldn't play, but it was still 6.5 on the card so I jumped on it.
  • 49ers +5.5 vs. Eagles -- Niners lost at home last week to Pats and I don't expect two in a row against a Westbrook-less Eagles team.
  • Lions-Vikings under 45.5 -- Have you watched either of these offenses? Unless we see four special teams/defense touchdowns, this thing's going way under.
  • Cowboys-Cardinals over 50.5 -- I liked the over even before I heard that Dallas might be without its two starting cornerbacks.
  • Packers-Seahawks under 46.5 -- No Hasselbeck, no receivers, no Seattle offense. But the vaunted 12th man at Qwest Field will give the Packers fits, keeping the total down.
Last week: 3-2
Season: 10-14-1

Friday, October 10, 2008

That flapping you hear ...

... is the sound of chickens coming home to roost. After a full week of tossing bloody chum into the waters, John McCain is shocked -- shocked! -- to find out that supporters at his rallies think Obama is a terrorist, an Arab, a Marxist, or merely somebody who should strike fear in the hearts of God-lovin' 'Murkins.

Here's the money quote:
"I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

He had drawn boos with his comment: "I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

So there remains a kernel of integrity somewhere deep down inside John McCain, a sense of decency and honor. Too bad it took this long to reveal itself. True, he may lose the election by tamping down his personal attacks on Obama (actually, he may lose it either way), but at least this way, "Country First" doesn't ring entirely hollow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

(Smirk. Snort! Titter!!)

I've got quite a bit of bile stored up about the ugly tone of the recent McCain-Palin campaign rallies, but I'll save that for a later post. I just had to get this on the record -- here's the caption for the following photo, courtesy of the arch-conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal (and if you've lost the R-J, you've lost right-wing America):


The caption: "Republican presidential nominee John McCain kisses a boy Wednesday during a rally in Bethlehem, Pa."

Not "kisses a baby" or "kisses a child" but "kisses a boy." Nice one, R-J copy editor. If Sherm Frederick hasn't ordered you to clean out your desk by now, I'd be stunned.

As for McCain ... well, if Larry Craig and Mark Foley can keep getting elected ...

Sick like dog

I've been battling a bug for much of this week so the training has been on hold a bit. I thought it was just a little food poisoning but I had the bad body aches and atypical exhaustion, so I don't know what it was. I felt good enough yesterday to put in 40 minutes on the elliptical and I did a half-hour treadmill routine today (walking at varying inclines -- 12 percent doesn't sound like much, but you do it for two minutes and let me know how you feel when you're done) so I think I'm back to normal.

Valerie gave me a new training regimen to follow -- we're going to cut down to two days a week with me filling in the cardio four other days on my own. We're going to train on Mondays and Thursdays with me running a mile before each session (or a half-mile before and a half-mile after). On Tuesdays, I'll bike for 30 minutes and add in other cardio options as I see fit. Wednesdays will be my "light day" with walking, swimming or maybe even some yoga if I find a class I like. Never tried it before but I'm willing to do anything once.

On Fridays I'm back on the bike and will mix in some stairmaster or treadmill work, and on Saturday I'll start running up to 2 miles for now, pushing that to 3 miles by mid-November and eventually 4 miles as my max for now. And on Sundays, I rest.

Anybody with advice or anecdotes they've gleaned from their own training regimens are encouraged to post.

Oh, and as for the baseball playoffs, I like the Dodgers in six and the Red Sox in seven. I know, that means both teams will have to clinch on the road -- not a problem for the Dodgers, very dicey for the Sox in the Tampadome, but it could happen. They'll either win it in five or seven games, and I can see Tampa winning at least one at Fenway, so let's go with seven. Should be a fun series either way.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Week 5: A debatable NFL parlay

If you're upset that I didn't post last week's five-teamer, consider yourself lucky that you didn't have a chance to follow my sage advice. I was too caught up in baseball fever to post my picks or, apparently, think them through, because I went 2-3.

This week, we've got a fresh batch of small-town, mavericky, straight-talkin' NFL picks that I'm sending out straight to the American people, without the filter of the elite, East Coast football media.

  • Texans +3.5 vs. Indy -- the long, strange trip ends for Houston, which returns to the Lone Star State (the lone star apparently being Steve Slaton) to face a banged-up Colts team that has struggled with the upstart expansioneers
  • Titans -2.5 at Baltimore -- Last week made me a believer in Tennessee -- any team that can so thoroughly befuddle the great Gus Frerotte should have no problem with Joe Flacco
  • Panthers -9.5 vs. KC -- the Chiefs got their win last week; they won't get No. 2 in Charlotte
  • Bucs-Broncos over 47.5 -- Brian Griese returns to Denver to face the Broncos' horrible pass defense, while Jay Cutler gets to show the home fans that last week's debacle in KC was due to tainted barbecue
  • Bills-Cards over 44.5 -- giving up 14 points to the Rams, as the Bills did last week, equates to roughly 35 points allowed against an NFL offense, while the Cardinals' feat of allowing Breffarve to throw six TD passes last week was the most breath-taking act of subservience to a senior citizen since Denny's started serving the early-bird dinner special at 3 p.m.
Last week: 2-3
Season: 7-12-1

A team of mavericks

OK, first of all, I have to say that I thought Sarah Palin did a fine job in Thursday's VP debate. She stuck to her talking points, didn't answer any questions, and certainly connected with the "values voters" who comprise the Republican base. Also, she didn't vomit, faint, or start praying at the podium.

And I honestly thought the post-debate mingling between the families was rather touching. There seemed to be some genuine respect and goodwill on display, and it gave me some hope for possible national unity come next January 20, regardless of which ticket wins.

BUT ...

Seriously, folks. She kept referring to the Republican ticket as "a team of mavericks." Now, I know we can't all be English majors (jealous much?), so it's no surprise that the language is abused on a fairly regular basis during political campaigns. But this is a pretty basic contradiction of terms.

team: a number of persons forming one of the sides in a game or contest; a number of persons associated in some joint action

maverick: a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates

It stands to reason, then, that true mavericks are incapable of associating in some joint action. Oh sure, at first they can act in concert to achieve a specific goal -- say, getting elected. But once in office, can't you just seem them spinning off in 100 different directions, entirely incapable of getting anything done or staying on point? Take a look at McCain's erratic performance in the campaign so far if you want to see what a team of mavericks is capable of.

So ... a team of mavericks:


or


Very few people here in Henderson have positive stories about betting on Mavericks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Playoff previews

Sorry I didn't get to this before the playoffs started -- I've been sequestered in a bunker in Sedona, Ariz., the past few days, engaging in some top-secret planning sessions in an attempt to make WHIH the best darn blog on the Internets. I just got back to lovely Henderson, so here's what I would have posted, had I been able to get to my computer yesterday. Swear to God.

-------------------------------------------

The month was January 2001. A young Ashton Kutcher was teaching the country to laugh with 'Dude, Where's My Car?' Americans were giddy with the anticipation of eight years of peace, prosperity and national unity following the inauguration of George W. Bush. And the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to play the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.

The Vikings, behind dynamic young quarterback Daunte Culpepper, flashy All-Pro receiver Randy Moss and a defense spearheaded by Wasswa Serwanga, were a rare road favorite against the untested Giants. Surely the experience of losing the 1998 NFC Championship Game to Atlanta would serve the Vikings well two years later and help vault them into their first Super Bowl in a quarter century.

Privately, Vikings coaches were telling anybody who'd listen that they were confident of a double-digit victory for the Purple-Helmeted Warriors.

Meanwhile, at the little website that could, a crew of talented sportswriters were compiling their weekly NFL predictions. When it came time to turn in my picks, I was roundly derided for selecting the Giants over the hometown favorites. When asked for my rationale, all I could fall back on was, "Until I see a Dennis Green-coached team actually play in the Super Bowl, I can't predict it happening."

The final score: Giants 41, Vikings 0.

Why am I rehashing this tale? Because of its obvious relevance to this year's MLB postseason.

Until I see the Los Angeles Orange County Anaheim Disneyland John Wayne International Angels actually beat the Boston Red Sox in the postseason, I can't predict it happening. Red Sox in 4.

Until I see the Chicago Cubs suppress the gag reflex and play up to their potential in the postseason, I can't predict it happening. Dodgers in 4.

As for the other two series, I'm on record as saying that by losing to the White Sox, the Twins avoided a sweep in Tampa, so Rays in 3. And I really like this Cole Hamels kid -- I think he'll pitch a gem in Game 1 and get some momentum going for Philadelphia. But CC will come up huge in Game 2 and the Brew Crew will take care of business back home, so Brewers in 4.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tiebreaker recap

Hey Sox fans -- the Man in Black has two words for you.

Meanwhile, the future is bright for the Twins. Five young starting pitchers -- age 24 to 26 this season -- with a year of experience under their belts. Mauer, Morneau and Nathan locked up long-term. Great years from the "kids" -- Gomez, Span and Casilla. The potential emergence of Mijares as an eighth-inning guy, with Neshek coming back next year as well. And only one more year in the Dome.

Pitchers and catchers report in 132 days ...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

100 and sultry

As Mama from "Throw Mama From The Train" famously said, "It's too damn sultry out here!" It's been going through my mind all week, especially today when we had a high of 100 degrees ... on September Freakin' 27th!

Throw in some undesert-like humidity -- 22 percent right now, had to be higher earlier today -- and it's about as uncomfortable as I've been all summer. And it's fall!

The girls had back-to-back soccer games spanning the noon hour today, so I was camped out in the sun and humidity from about 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. And naturally, both teams drew the sideline facing the sun, so it was beating down on my face that whole time. I had grand plans to get to the club and pound out some cardio later in the afternoon, but once I got back to the car, I swore I wouldn't set foot outside the house the rest of the day.

Fortunately there was some decent college football on the tube, and we got to see the White Sox gag away another game and give the Twins yet another reprieve before we settled in to watch a couple episodes of the great HBO miniseries "John Adams" on our DVR. We've got one episode to go -- can't wait to see how it turns out! I hope he doesn't die in the end.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New review: Kings of Leon


Kings of Leon -- Only By the Night

Genre:
Whiskey-drenched arena rock

For fans of: loud guitars, Pentecostal revivals, My Morning Jacket, skinny jeans, burgoo, The Strokes on hillbilly heroin, facial hair

Download it: "Sex on Fire," "Crawl"

Twins-Sox series recap

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Progress

Mad props to my trainer Valerie today. We did the second round of body measurements and while I'm still at 238, my body fat has dropped by more than 2 percent and I've lost a couple of inches in some problem areas.

If you watch The Biggest Loser, you know that the dreaded Week 2 Plateau is the bane of the dieters' existence. This is the middle of Week 3 for me, so I'm not surprised that I haven't lost weight this week. First of all, muscle is more dense than fat, and I'm adding muscle while losing fat, so the only numbers that really count are measurements right now. And with Nora at home the last couple of days, I wasn't able to pound out any cardio during the day, which limited my caloric deficit.

Anyway, we celebrated my success today by pounding the crap out of my body again. Actually, it wasn't anything excessively brutal -- just a good, solid workout, three times through a circuit that included 3 minutes of running, then some squats and some shoulder work. I got on the bike afterwards for a quick 12-minute workout and am feeling great.

Twins 9, White Sox 3

Great Twins game last night. That was exactly how they wanted the series to start -- not just with a win, but with a decisive win that could send a message to the Sox that will carry over throughout the series.

Baker was just massive last night -- and in winning his 10th game, he became the 5th Twins starter to win 10 this year (including the departed Livan) -- first time in team history that's happened. Other positives:
  • Gotta pat Gardy on the back for playing the hunch on Kubel. Let's see what Cuddy does tonight against Buehrle.
  • Nice to see nine runs with Span and Casilla going 0-for-10.
  • The crowd was really into it. Standing on every two-strike count, curtain calls, and just generally maintaining a buzz throughout.
  • It was fun to see small-ball driving the Sox crazy with bunts and stolen bases and getting the runner over and taking the extra base.
  • It was also fun to see three HRs.
  • Delmon's bomb was a blast.
Delmon still did that crazy thing at the end of his double, where he refuses to slide and then almost falls off the base while hopping to stop his momentum. I know he's got a sore ankle, but sometimes he looks like a guy playing softball at the church picnic who doesn't want to get grass stains on his good pants.

But that's a minor complaint after watching a nearly perfect victory. One down, two to go.

Too good to be true?

Here's the key passage from this very promising article:
As recently as two weekends ago, the entire mid-’90s lineup of the band (Louris, Olson, bassist Marc Perlman, keyboardist Karen Grotberg and drummer Tim O’Reagan) reunited for a full concert at the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria, Spain.

“It was great,” Olson said of the performance. “We rehearsed two days, although we all worked on the songs prior to that. We did basically everything from the ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ and ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ albums,” the 1992 and 1995 recordings that solidified much of The Jayhawks’ international fan base.


Man. Just ... man. Too giddy to form complete sentences. Hope it happens. Can't believe after all these years ...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday musings

No theme to today's post ... just random observations from a weekend in the desert.

Pink-Eye Sucks. I'm at home with Nora today, because she woke up with one eye nearly swollen shut and the other eye starting to get gunked up too. The doctor's office can't see her until 4 p.m. but I made the executive decision to keep her home and not jeopardize the rest of her classmates.

But this really throws off the old workout plan. I was supposed to get beaten down by Valerie at 9 a.m., but that's off the table now. And since Kris is leading a bible study group at church tonight, she won't be home until 9-ish, making a visit to the club seem rather unlikely today. All I can do is eat right, get some sleep, and do some crunches, pushups and the like. Oh, maybe I'll swim some laps too -- in our pool, one lap is about 10 meters, so if I go back and forth 15 times, it's almost like a workout.

Old Man Yells at Cloud. Sherman Fredrick is the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He's a reliable water-carrier for right-wing politicians and causes, but even for Sherm, yesterday's op-ed piece was beyond the pale.


He slimes the Obama campaign by saying that its emphasis on the importance of technology is "asinine" and that Obama likes to "poke fun at a hero's war injuries." Because, you know, McCain was a POW, and the physical damage he suffered while in the hands of his captors now prevents him from using a computer.

It's a typically dishonest political screed from Frederick -- we're supposed to accept that McCain's not physically capable of using a computer, but he's healthy enough to run the country, so don't you worry about his neophyte VP choice ever having to assume the Presidency. Note that McCain has never used his war injuries as an excuse for his technophobia -- he never says, "Gee, I wish I could e-mail more, but I can't sit at a computer for any length of time." Nor has he, apparently, explored voice recognition technology or other methods to overcome his very real and very permanent injuries.

Of course, that's not really the point of Sherm's smarmy rant -- he just wants to throw a little blood in the water before he gets to his main point, that just because technology has passed you by, that doesn't mean the world has done the same. And that's true ... to a point. Nobody is suggesting that people who don't use e-mail or cell phones or the Google are worthless to society. And yes, it's often helpful to "get off the grid" for a time, to shut off the BlackBerry and take time to smell the roses.

But at the same time, the leader of the world's only remaining superpower needs to be at least conversant in the basics of 21st-century technology. He (or she) cannot be defiantly proud of his (or her) technological ignorance. It really does matter. And we can't afford to spend four or eight more years with a President who will surround himself with people who will tend to those minor little details while he focuses on the big picture.

Meanwhile, Sherm, I hope those kids get off your lawn.

Rebel Nation. Heady times for the UNLV football program, which stands at 3-1 after a thrilling 34-31 overtime victory against Iowa State on Saturday. The Rebels were coming off an upset win at then-No. 15 Arizona State (over-rated!), and stormed out to a 21-0 halftime lead against the hapless Cyclones. But ISU stormed back in an entertaining second half, eventually tying the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds to play.

Now, I've been down this road many times before with the Gophers, and in every such game, the Golden Rodents would curl up in the fetal position and let the opponent run away with an easy win. So you can imagine how disorienting it was to see the Rebels catch their breath, then reassert control over the game.

Iowa State opened the OT session with the ball, and three plays later kicked a field goal after an impressive defensive stand by the Rebels. Then, on its first offensive play of OT, UNLV went for the jugular and got it, with quarterback Omar Clayton throwing a beautiful fade to the corner of the end zone, where freshman wide receiver Phillip Payne used every bit of his 6-foot-3 frame to stretch for the ball and haul in the winning touchdown.

Now, with the Rebels 3-1 and my Golden Gophers 4-0, is it any wonder I find myself checking the rear-view mirror frequently, looking for four horsemen on my tail?

30 years and still gut-wrenching. Today's must-read article is from noted journalist Jeff Pearlman (yeah, the guy who exposed John Rocker and recently published a bawdy account of the early-90s Dallas Cowboys) of ESPN.com, who examines the death of Lyman Bostock 30 years ago this week. I think this one will merit an entry of its own, but do yourself a favor and read this article if you are at all interested in baseball, crime, or humanity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Week 3: Hope-I'm-Wrong NFL Parlay

I don't like to include the Vikings in my parlay, because if I bet against them I'm rooting against my team, and if I bet on them and they lose, I'm doubly crushed. But sometimes the numbers and the circumstances make it impossible to pass up.

So with that in mind, here's the 5-team parlay for Week 3:

  • Redskins -3.5 vs. Arizona -- Team Zorn righted itself last week against New Orleans, and the Cards haven't started 3-0 since the first month of the Ford Administration.
  • Redskins-Cardinals over 42.5 -- Three of their last four have gone over, all of them in D.C.
  • Panthers +3.5 at Minnesota -- I can't see the Vikings stopping Steve Smith. Maybe Gus can keep it close. Ideally, the Vikings will win by a field goal.
  • Eagles-Steelers over 44.5 -- Two great offenses will be on display in the Keystone State.
  • Jets +9.5 at San Diego -- The Chargers are hurting. No Merriman, gimpy Tomlinson, Norv Turner still the head coach. Favre will find a way to keep the Jets in the game if not win it outright.
Last week: 1-3-1
Season: 4-5-1

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Celebrity skinny

So, I'm at the club on Thursday, warming up on the bike before getting my butt royally kicked by my trainer (Thanks, Valerie!) when I see the following "news" scroll across the bottom of the TV monitor above me:

Trump Endorses McCain on Larry King

And I thought, "Jeez, when will these celebrities ever get it through their thick heads that we just don't care what they think? Somebody had better tell the McCain campaign to get these celebrities to shut the hell up, because they're doing him more harm than good!"

Well, not really. But that's exactly what I hear from my friends on the right whenever another actor, musician or professional athlete speaks up in support of Barack Obama. Cuz, you know, just because they're celebrities doesn't mean they know what they're talking about.

However ... just because they're celebrities doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about, either. Many of these people have devoted significant amounts of time, energy and money in educating themselves about the issues of the day, and many are legitimate activists for their pet causes. To remain silent when they have a platform to speak out (don't blame them because our society is infatuated with celebrities) would be to turn their backs on those causes.

So when Don Cheadle endorses Obama because he thinks an Obama administration would do more to end the oppression and genocide in Darfur, the knee-jerk Republican reaction to be dismissive reveals a lot more about them than they'd care to admit.

As anybody who watched the Republican National Convention coverage can attest, the righties hate the celebrities. Hate 'em. Think they're anti-American. Use 'em to rile up the base and get the money flowing to the campaign coffers. Heck, they even make clever campaign commercials comparing Obama to such celebrities as Paris Hilton (whose parents are major McCain donors) and Britney Spears (who famously backed George W. Bush in his re-election campaign).

However, if the celebrities are on their side, then they're welcomed with open arms. Oddly, they don't seem to mind if actors, musicians or athletes speak their mind and offer their opinions, as long as they're opining in favor of Republican candidates and causes.

So the next time you hear a right-winger complain about celebrities offering their uninformed political opinions, just nod your head and say, "Yeah, I hate that Chuck Norris guy, too."

New review: Calexico



Genre: Tex-Mex alt-psychadelia

For fans of: Iron & Wine, jalapeno poppers & tequila, Herb Alpert, snakeskin boots, peyote, Sergio Leone movies, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Download it: "Victor Jara's Hands," "Slowness"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last nail?

After watching the Twins' gut-wrenching, come-from-behind, come-from-ahead loss to Cleveland last night, which might have been the final nail in their coffin this season, my thoughts drifted to 1984.

Where were you in summer of 1984? That was a big year for me -- I was deep in the throes of puberty, listening to a lot of Van Halen, riding my moped around town to my first real jobs (umpiring little league baseball games and working at a drive-in restaurant), and parting my hair on the side again after an ill-fated, follow-the-crowd experiment with the center-part-feathered look. Ugh.

Anyway, in the summer of 1984, the Minnesota Twins made their first serious run at a division title in my 10 years of following the team. Powered by a dynamic young lineup that featured emerging stars Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and a rookie center fielder named Kirby Puckett, the Twins entered the last week of the season 81-75 and tied for first place with the Kansas City Royals.

Even after dropping a pair at Chicago, the Twins still trailed the Royals by only two games with one series remaining -- a four-gamer at Cleveland, a team they had just swept at the Metrodome a week earlier and that was 16 games below .500 entering the final weekend.

Now, I had just entered 10th grade that month, making the big leap from junior high to high school, so I was rather caught up with ... uh ... my studies, as well as trying to impress the ladies with said moped (verdict: unsuccessful), so I can't recall the details of that series chapter and verse. Thankfully, a wonderful site called Baseball Almanac is out there on the Internets, a great resource for baseball dorks like me.

On Thursday night, Mike Smithson took a 3-0 lead into the 8th, gave up a couple of runs and yielded to Ron Davis, who gave up tying run before getting out of the 8th. Then, with two outs in the 9th, the great Jamie Quirk took RD deep and the Twins lost 4-3.

But the Royals lost to the Angels, leaving the door open for the Twins -- two games out with three to play. On Friday night, the Twins took a 10-0 lead after two and a half innings. Staff ace Frank Viola gave back two in the third, then blew up in the sixth as the Tribe scored seven more times to cut the lead to 10-9. (Meanwhile, the Twins were getting blanked by the Indians' bullpen duo of future Twin LeRoy Purdy Smith and the immortal Tom Waddell.)

Once again, RD was the scapegoat for the loss -- the Tribe tied it off him in the 8th, and he put the winning run on in the 9th before the immortal Ed Hodge gave up two hits and allowed the winning run to score. I wish I knew who had the hits but that's not part of the box score.

Meanwhile, the Royals won in Oakland and that did it for the 1984 Minnesota Twins. One aside -- at least they didn't completely roll over. On that Saturday, they took a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Neal Heaton, but John Butcher couldn't hold it and they lost 6-4. And on Sunday, they scored twice in the top of the first off (wait for it ...) Bert Blyleven, but they didn't get another run until the 8th, by which time the Indians had tuned up Ken Schrom en route to a 7-4 win.

Of course, the AL West title that year was pretty much a consolation prize because the Royals were steamrolled by the juggernaut that was the World Champion Detroit Tigers. But still, it was a nice, unexpected run for the Twins, and it set the stage for their 1987 World Series season, with many of those young stars from '84 providing the backbone of the '87 team.

Anyway, this is a round-about way of saying it was a good run this summer, and maybe the Sox will still fall flat on their faces, but it doesn't look like it. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Twins will have to go 9-2. I don't see them getting out of Tampa with fewer than two losses this weekend, and that doesn't even account for their game against 22-2 Cliff Lee tonight.

I just hope somewhere in Minnesota there's a 15-year-old kid stinking of Clearasil and Old Spice, driving a moped around town and clinging to the last dying hope of a flickering Twins season. Dare to dream, kid.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2 down, ____ to go

A week in and I've lost two pounds. It's a start -- in fact, it's right on pace. My target weight for the triathlon is 215, which means I need to lose a total of 25 pounds in 14 weeks. So two pounds a week would get me there.

Today's training session included crunches, leg lifts, shoulder presses and lunges -- lots and lots of lunges. They're not fun -- but they do the job.

Oh, and I ran yesterday for the first time since the Reagan administration (I kid ... but not much). It was on the treadmill, and I was pretty much just dipping my toe into the water by running for one minute (5.7 mph), then walking for two minutes, and repeating the cycle for 30 minutes. It went well enough that next time I'm going to try one-minute intervals for both walking and running. Then I'll just extend the running periods while continuing to walk for a minute on each "break" until I'm feeling good enough to run 3.1 miles.

Or that's the plan. Anybody have tips for a beginning runner? Fire away.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tipping their hand

Looking back on the Vikings' 18-15 loss to the Colts on Sunday, one play spotlighted the ongoing folly of the coaching staff's high opinion of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Leading 15-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings faced a 3rd-and-5 from the Indianapolis 31.

Now, on 3rd-and-5, most teams are going to pass, because it's tough to get five yards on a running play when the defense is pretty much stacked between the line of scrimmage and about seven yards downfield. However, the Vikings figured all they needed was three more points -- to stretch their lead to 11 -- so they ran Chester Taylor into the line, figuring he'd at least keep them in field goal position.

Taylor gained a yard, and Ryan Longwell trotted onto the field to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The fact that he missed it didn't make the 3rd down play a bad call -- it was a bad call regardless of what happened on that play or on the field goal attempt. Because by running Taylor into the line instead of giving T-Jax a chance to make a play to keep the drive alive, chew up some more clock and maybe actually put six points on the board instead of three, the Vikings coaches were saying, "We don't trust our quarterback to be able to convert a 3rd-and-5 midway through the fourth quarter as we're protecting an 8-point lead."

And that's just sad. If they don't trust Jackson enough to give him a chance to throw (or scramble) for a first down in that situation, then he has no business being on the field right now.

It's too early to jump off the Vikings bandwagon -- yeah, they're 0-2, but they've played arguably their two toughest games of the year, at Green Bay and home against the Colts, and look at the other teams who are 0-2 today (San Diego, Jacksonville, and Cleveland all had major playoff aspirations going into the season). But the quarterback and coaching staff have done little to ease the concerns of Viking Nation with their performance through two weeks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Here comes the parlay

Week 2 of the NFL is just about upon us, so it's long past time to re-introduce the 5-team parlay to the blog. For those whose souls haven't been irreversibly corrupted by gambling, a parlay is a bet that pays out better than a straight (i.e. single-team) bet because you have to win all legs of the parlay to collect.

In this case, a 5-team parlay involves five picks each week, and all five have to win. But if that magic happens, I get paid back 23-to-1. It's my own little office pool, and I only have to hit it once a year to make money -- which is exactly what I did in 2005 and 2006. But I was shutout last year -- I went 4-for-5 in three different weeks, including the first and the last weeks of the regular season (not sure what that means). So while the goal is still to hit it once this year, I'd happily take two ... or more.

Last week, I went 3-for-5, hitting with the Bills, Broncos and the Panthers-Chargers over, and missing on the Lions (I know, fool me once ...) and the Cowboys-Browns over. So we're off to an inconspicuous start. Time to get conspicuous.

Week 2 NFL 5-team parlay:
  • Chiefs -3.5 vs. Raiders -- This is more a pick against the Raiders than for the Chiefs, although I do think the boys from KC were plucky against the Brady-less Pats last Sunday. But the Raiders just stink out loud.
  • Packers-Lions over 45 -- One thing Detroit will do this year is score. Another thing they'll do is let the opposing team score. Watch their totals climb every week until they reach the realm of last year's Patriots, although that phenomenon was due to the respect for New England's offense; with the Lions, it's all about their defense.
  • Colts-Vikings over 43.5 -- This should be a shootout. The Colts will pass early and often, aiming for the Vikings' weakness. And I like how Minnesota's offense played in the second half last week, once T-Jax shook off some of the rust he gathered while sitting out the last 2.5 games of the preseason.
  • Pats-Jets over 37 -- Breffarve's first home game for Gang Green -- you think he's going to be content to hand off to Thomas Jones and manage the game? He'll throw at least two TDs to the Jets' receivers and maybe one to the Pats' secondary. And the Pats will move the ball fine under Cassell.
  • Texans -4.5 vs. Ravens -- Houston was everybody's sneaky preseason pick but the Texans laid an egg against Pittsburgh last week. Now they get to open their home schedule against a rookie quarterback making his first road start. Hurricane or no hurricane, I've got one word for that scenario: Giddy-up!
Last week: 3-2
Season: 3-2