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. 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:


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 ...