Apr 12, 2017

Vegas Diary 2017 - Part 2

Wednesday, March 8

Well, those sleeping pills did their job. I opened my eyes around 6:30 and was still under the influence of the pills. Stayed in bed for another hour - that never happens in Vegas! Finally got downstairs around 8 or so - and found an empty craps table. I was by myself - why not? - and started rolling. Another guy joined me, and he hit an all small for me. Great! Even though the Mirage dropped the payout for the All Small from 35 for 1 to 30-1, I still was addicted to it. It's like an ATM! It eventually pays out!

(It was the only all small I hit all trip).

I think the roller who hit it for me was part of the Con Ag convention. Let me pause and say a few words about that convention. The ConAg convention is a annual convention of heavy agricultural equipment vendors, and every 3 years they come to Vegas. This was their week. There as a check in for the expo at the airport; when I landed, the line was at least 100 people long.  From Tuesday - Friday, the casino was full of people with their blue lanyards milling around the casino. Some found their way to UTH; some were beginners at craps; some just had rooms there and had no interest in gambling. I think I saw the same woman from Mansfield at least 5 times in the elevator over the course of our trip. The people were fine - for me - except for the fact that the UTH tables were fairly crowded on the weekday afternoons; I don't think Wiz liked many of them in the Salon.

Layup and I had breakfast, where we (mostly I) charted the games; I was convinced of Western Kentucky -4 over UTSA. I'm the leadoff batter for our parlay! I don't lose early games! After breakfast, Layup and I went back to that craps table where I won the all small - no luck.

The old home
It was about 9 am - and we all went our separate ways for a bit - exercise, work, etc; I wanted to jog but the treadmills were crowded. Plan B - run on the strip! There's a first time for everything. 30 minute jog from the Mirage down to the MGM - crossing at Caesar's, and having to run inside the mall at Planet Hollywood for about 100 yards. It was great! Perfect weather, no crowds (except for hurdling a few homeless people on the east side of the strip across from the Aria). That, followed by a massage, was a great way to really relax for the trip.

It was now about 1:00 on Wednesday - Don and Mike are still on the course and won't be back until about 4 - now what? Another first for the trip - Top Golf! The three of us went there and had a great time. The end of the range had 4 giant TVs that were showing basketball - so it was golf, alcohol, appetizers while watching 30 foot TVs. The cost was lower than expected (although not cheap). Got to see a great Duke cover in the 2nd half of the Clemson game, but also was there when someone convinced all of us to bet heave on Arkansas St - and they were a loser.

Back at the Mirage, we waited at the UTH table for Don and Mike D to return from golf; we all headed to Lavo for dinner - what to say? The regular meal at Lavo never disappoints. There was a huge line for the casino/sportsbar  on the second floor of the restaurant - someday, we need to make an expedition there.

When we returned for dinner - what else? UTH with the 5 of us, and then Mike A arrived to make it a full table of 6. Wednesday night was also John the Pai Gow dealer's first night on - and he was there and came over and said. He lingered at our table for a while during each of his breaks - part to catch up with all of us.....but things turned a bit odd. During the conversations, he would put his hand on our shoulder - nothing wrong with that - and then massage our shoulders and arms while talking. It was just .... odd. Was it genuine happiness in seeing us? His Italian roots coming out? Or a cry for help? Wiz will have to get more information for us.
Not a winner
All of us were exhausted around 11, and the session ended. An early night for us.

Oh- our parlays? Wednesday's parlay was no good. I think this is a 1-6 ticket; the first clue that this is a losing ticket was having 6 favorites.

Apr 7, 2017

Vegas Diary 2017 - Part 1

Well, I guess it is time to start putting the notes into actual words and save for history. Yes, it's time for the Vegas 2017 trip diary! The trip vibe was a little different this year - which is good. We need to have every trip be different in its own way. If I look back, there were not a lot of true gambling stories, but the interactions with all the other gamblers (and within our group) made up for the memories. And the golfing - as Layup caught the golf bug this winter, more emphasis was placed on the golf this year. For the better, I think!

Tuesday, March 7

The trip started a bit earlier this year - I took the direct flight out from Cincinnati to Vegas on Tuesday morning. The trip therefore started when my alarm went off at 5:45. Layup picked me up at the airport at 9 am - and off we went to Royal Links. Driving with Layup was much better than the taxi ride last year.

Teed off at Royal Links around 10 - just Layup and I in a twosome. Great round; gave Layup a few pointers for chipping/wedges and Layup was ready to put the clock on me a few times. On #8 - a short par 3 - I staked it to 4 feet and Layup pulled his a bit into the greenside bunker - or so we thought. Here's the picture - and Layup's ball at the bottom.

I gave him a free drop (due to man made obstruction), and off we went. I shared the picture and was immediately told I gave an incorrect ruling. Some people (like the idiot Wiz) felt that there was no free drop in this situation since the stairs went down to the bunker- and the stairs are part of the bunker.

We did not resolve that ruling - need some outside help on this one. (RRD? Kermit?). If the ball is on railroad ties, it's a free drop! It's not in a marked red/yellow hazard, and there is no local rule that the steps are an integral part of the course!

(of course, I missed my putt in the picture).

On the way back, we stopped at a Bank of America where Layup spent 20 minutes in the bank getting money while I was in constant fear of being robbed in the parking lot. Checked in to the usual room - the suite with the adjoining room - cleaned up, and the trip starts!

Layup and I first hit the UTH table; there was a poor guy sitting there by himself with the dealer when we come in and both ask for markers. Play grinds to a halt for this guy. He eventually gives up and leaves, leaving us two alone with Rosemary, the dealer.

Rosemary is friendly, ice cold as Layup and I start getting good cards.  We were into the session about an hour when a random flop comes up - like Q of spades, 6 of diamonds and 3 of diamonds. Nothing there.

Rosemary turns over the 4 and 7 of diamonds..... hmmmm..

After 1 second, Layup smiles at me. "I have a straight flush". Sure enough, he had the 5.... a good start for the trip.

Quote of the trip happened during that session....Rosemary asked if we were in town for the Con Ag expo that took over Vegas that week. "No", we said. Just a guys trip - 7 of us. We always come in this weekend for golf and the basketball.

A guy was sitting on first base... and he paused. "It's....Tuesday..."

I think the Vegas trip should start on Tuesday every year - and I assume by 2020 it will move to Monday.

Wiz came in around 5 or so; we headed to Heritage at 5:30 for dinner where we had great food but the worst service. First, we sat down in the bar area - ready to watch the end of the Ga Tech game and the start of the Gonzaga game. We were ready for drinks - and our waitress was 5 feet away from us, talking to a friend of hers. And talking...And talking....And talking. Am I exaggerating when I say she did this for 10 minutes? We are ready to drink, and get back to the tables -but she is gabbing with a long lost friend. She half-heartdly mumbled an apology and took our orders. We did not hide our displeasure.

OK - nowe we can watch the games....until what? A 6'5" guy stand in the exact same place where our waitress was, and starts talking to another person. And, of course, this guy is in direct line with the TV so we are blocked. We did our best to cheer obnoxiously loud to see if he would get the hint - again, it took 5 minutes for him to move.

At least Gonzaga won (and covered) and Northern Kentucky won and covered. And Columbus covered the money line (-1.5). So a good start with the sports bets that day.

The rest of the day's gambling was non-eventful; we tried to roll and none of us could, and one more UTH session was a wash. I fell asleep around 11 after taking 2 sleeping pills - since I never sleep in Vegas.....

Jan 1, 2017

NFL Week 17: October 26, 1997

Happy New Year!
We end our series on my most painful sports memories with this one.... and, I'm sorry, I'm still not able to talk about this game rationally.

I just physcially can't go into the details of this game like I have done with the others. It's still too painful. Just searching for the images brought back some bad, bad flashbacks.

(For instance, I forgot that they were up 2-0 in the game. I always thought it was 1-0, then 1-1, then 2-1 until the 9th.....ugh....)

Where was I for this game? Janice and I had tickets - believe it or not - for the Buffalo Bills game that weekend. The Bills were holding a "Cleveland Browns fan Appreciation day", given our "hiatus" from the league at that point. We got tickets from the Cincinnati Browns Backers group. The plan was to drive up Saturday, watch Game 6 in Steve's basement with Steve, then go to Buffalo on Sunday to watch the Bills, and then drive home from Buffalo to Cincinnati Sunday night.

Well, Game 6 was a great game - Chad Ogea not only winning but driving in 2 runs - and the Tribe won, forcing a game 7. The weather was crap - and why were we going to see a Buffalo game anyway?  We decided to stay in Cleveland that Sunday to watch game 7 in Steve's basement.

I was 25. I wanted to riot in the streets with a win.

I remember us getting pizza - I think it was the 4 of us; Janice, me, Steve, and Steve's girlfriend (soon to be wife, Susan). We got a ton of pizza. We watched the game in almost absolute silence in the heightened tension. Every half inning, I would get up, grab a slice of the small square-cut pizza, pace around a bit, and then sit down.

We ran out of pizza after the bottom of the 8th. I don't think I have to say anymore.

The drive home was awful, although we set a record - we made it home in about 3 hours with no stops.

I'm sorry, I still can't relive that game.....still too raw.

On to the games:

Cin 20, Bal 17. Have to think there is some letdown for the Ravens after last week.

TB 27, Car 17. TB will at least play hard for a while in this game.

Hou 20, Ten 13. I think Houston will go all out here, as they need to get Tom Savage reps in preparation for the playoffs next week.

Ind 27, Jax 24. What a change in demeanor for the Jags! Wow....

NE 28, Mia 17.  Pats will go up 14-0 and cruise from there.

Min 27, Chi 24. The Vikes want the season to be over, and the Bears are still playing hard.

Buf 19, NYJ 16. Who cares?

Phi 23, Dal 20. No idea what Garrett and the Cowboys will do here.

Atl 31, NO 17. Someone will stop playing during this game - it will be evident.

Was 24, NYG 17. Motivation is another key factor here as the Giants are locked into the 5 seed.

Oak 23, Den 13. Denver's offense is atrocious, and I don't think Matt McGloin is all that bad.

Az 20, LA 10. I'm sure there will be 9 flea flickers for the Rams here just to keep people interested for next year.

KC 27, SD 16. The Chargers already said their good bye to San Diego last year. There's no celebratory send off in store this year.

Sea 20, SF 13. Again, I don't like Seattle on the road.

GB 30, Det 24. I may add this to the "best bet" games later on as the day progresses.

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 8-5; overall: 104-94-7
Cin +2.5
TB -3.5
Hou +4
Hou/Ten under 40.5
Jax/Ind over 47
Chi +6.5
Min/Chi over 43
Pit -5.5
Atl -7.5
NO/Atl under 57
Oak +1.5
KC -4
Sea/SF under 43

My supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 43-35-2
Pit -6
Atl -6.5
KC -6
Hou +3.5
Oak +1

Our combined supercontest picks: last week: 4-1; overall: 39-35-6:
NYJ -3.5
Bal +2
Was -7.5
Pit -6
Atl -6.5

Dec 24, 2016

NFL Week 16: January 17, 1988

As you know, there are so many painful moments in Cleveland sports history. There wasn't a shortage of games and losses to talk about. But only 2 stand out as wounds that are still difficult to talk about today. 

(Note 1 - I'm not including the move of the Browns to Baltimore as one of those; that, of course, was devastating; however, that was like watching a slow motion train wreck. You could see it coming, you tried to stop it, but it happened anyway. I still hate that bastard Art Modell....)

(Note 2 - I truly don't believe that the 2016 World Series will make the list of losses I won't be able to talk about in 10 years. The run this year just seemed like a great party when someone turned the lights on and told people to go home too early. We had no starting pitching, and it was apparent our offense was on empty. Yes, we were up 3-1, but still....with that rotation we had for games 5, 6 and 7, I wasn't completely comfortable. Now, if we were in the Cubs situation and up 6-3 in the 8th with Miller pitching, and ended up losing....that would be a different story....)

The first raw nerve we will talk about is the 1987 AFC Championship game, in Denver. This, of course, was a rematch of the 86 Champ game in Cleveland, ended by the Drive and Denver's missed field goal in overtime. As I talked about earlier, that game didn't affect me much, since I knew the game was going to overtime before I watched it on tape. However, for the rematch, I was watching live at home.

It was a late start - 4 pm Eastern, I think. We came out flat and the Broncos were clearly ready to play. We had no defense in the first half and Kosar/Slaughter/Byner couldn't get going. We were down 21-3 at the half. But strangely, I clearly remember not being despondent. I took our dog for a walk at halftime and saw a strategy for us to win.

- We get the ball to start the half....we need a TD. 
- We need just a few stops on D - our offense was moving but stalling around the 30 and 40. We just need to finish drives.
- Two stops, and two Cleveland completed drives - we are right back in this...

With that optimism, I returned to watch the 2nd half. The Browns got the 2nd half kickoff and scored.... 21-10. The Broncos then had a bomb to Nattiel to make it 28-10. 

From then on, it was all Browns. Kosar was 16-22 for 246 ...in the second half alone! Think about that...this was 1988. 300 yard passing games were rare back then - and he threw for 246 in a half. We were unstoppable. We were moving the ball at will. 

With 10:48 left in the 4th quarter, the comeback was complete; we tied it up at 31. 
Four drives - 21 total plays - four touchdowns. 
There's no way they can stop us. The question was - can we stop them?

Unfortunately, not on the next drive. Denver moved down the field and scored with 4:10 left. They were up 38-31. But still - 4 minutes is plenty of time for Kosar....

...and it was. With 1:05 left, we moved to the 8 yard line. We had 2nd and 5 at the 8. Reeves was quoted as saying he was already thinking about the coin toss to start overtime....

Marty called a draw to Byner...the rest is history. I don't have to recount what happened next. Apparently, Webster was supposed to block the safety, but he saw the hole that Byner was going to run through and he let up a moment to watch the touchdown - the safety came in and hit Byner on the blind side (Byner didn't see him) and that caused the fumble...

I was devastated. 

Furiously, I was thinking of possible ways we can win... "we still have 2 timeouts...they will have to punt...maybe a Hail Mary????"

Denver did have a 4th down with about :10 left at their own 5; they called for an intentional safety to make the score 38-33; they kicked off with about :05 left but our laterals were useless. 

I still can't believe they lost (or, at least, lost in regulation). 

Layup (who technically has no connections to Cleveland) was becoming a Denver fan at the time (for no apparent reason), so that made it extra painful. 

On that note, on to the games:

Buf 20, Mia 17. I can't figure this game out. I don't trust either of these teams - I've seen Miami blow these games on the road numerous times before. 

Atl 26, Car 20. Car shot its wad last Monday night, and Atlanta needs these games to keep hope alive for a bye. I think the Falcons play hard. 

Was 27, Chi 20. Chicago is just good enough to stay in this game, and I think the Skins are good enough to know they can't coast through games like last week. Desperation wins. 

GB 20, Min 19. The Vikes have the Packers' number. Enough said. 

Ten 24, Jax 17. Still don't trust the Titans to win the games they should down the stretch. Will Jax respond to a new coach? 

NE 31, NYJ 10. Betting on the "if first division meeting is close, second is a blowout" axiom. Seen it all the time with Browns-Steelers. 

Oak 28, Ind 17. Can't explain last week's Colts game. I think Oak scores at will against that Ind D, that is improving. 

TB 27, NO 24. Surprised the Saints are favored here. They still have no / limited defense. 

LA 23, SF 10. The Rams have more talent than the Niners, Can't see them losing this one. 

Sea 23, Az 20. Two teams that have similar talent. I have to believe the Cardinals will get up for this one. 

Hou 26, Cin 17. The Bengals will pack it in after the crushing loss last week to the Steelers. 

Pit 28, Bal 17. Not a fan of the Ravens offense. Only way they can score is to capitalize on others' mistakes; not going to happen in Pittsburgh. 

KC 24, Den 10. Someone explain to me how Denver will score in this game. 

Dal 28, Det 20. It will be interesting to watch Dallas's O - that is coming a bit to earth - against the improving Lions D. 

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 10-5; overall: 96-89-7
Atl -3
Was -3
Min +7
NE -17 (gulp)
Oak -3.5
Ind/Oak under 53.5
TB +3.5
LA -5
SF/LA under 39.5
Az +7.5
Hou -1
Pit -5.5
KC -3

My supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 39-34-2
KC -3.5
Hou -1
Oak -3.5
Az +7.5
LA -3.5

Our combined supercontest picks: last week: 1-3-1; overall: 35-34-6
Oak -3.5
Bal +5.5
KC -3.5
Hou -1
Car +3

Dec 18, 2016

NFL Week 15

I'm traveling up in Dayton all day today -but I did want to leave everyone with a taste of a Cleveland Buffalo memory. It's the only Cleveland win that will be listed this year - it's this doozy from 2009 ...

Cleveland 6, Buffalo 3

Derek Anderson completes 2 passes - and wins ! The whole NFL world loses.

Best bets: 15 for today: last week : 9-7; overall: 86-84-7

Pit -3
Det +4.5
Bal -5.5
KC -6
Ten/KC under 43
Ind/Min under 45.5
Jax +3.5
NO +3
Atl -14
SF/Atl under 50.5
NE -3
Oak/SD under 49.5
TB +7
TB /Dal over 47.5
Car/Was under 51

My supercontest picks : last week: 4-1; overall: 35-33-2
Pit -3
Det +4
NO +2.5
Jax +6
TB +6.5

Our combined supercontest picks: last week : 3-1-1; overall : 34-31-5
Pit -3
Det +4
Bal -5.5
Az -2.5
SD +3

Dec 11, 2016

NFL Week 14: December 16, 2001

Boy, it's hard to believe it has been almost 15 years since this game. 15 years since Bottlegate.

All Cleveland fans know Bottlegate - Jacksonville 15, Cleveland 10, back in 2001. The details are well summarized in this oral history and the CBS broadcast of the event is here on YouTube. I would encourage everyone to watch this see just how incompetently this was handled.

To recap:
- The Browns were 6-6 in the third year after the rebirth, well in playoff contention in the weak AFC. This is the first time we had been in playoff contention this late in the season in 7 years.
- We expected to win this game at home vs. the 4-8 Jags.
- Our offense sucked the whole game; we were losing 9-0 at half (we always suck against Jacksonville), but a pick 6 by the Browns got us back in it;
- Jacskonville kicked another field goal - their 5th - and led 15-10 with 3 minutes to go. We got the kick off and finally moved down the field.
- With a minute left, we had 4th and 2 at the Jacksonville 12. No timeouts left. Couch passed to Quincy Morgan and Morgan bobbled it a bit; he then secured it and was just past the first down line at the 10. First down Browns!
- The team lined up to spike to stop the clock; they spiked it. Now second down with :48 left at the 9.
- After the spike, the referee (more on him in a moment) said we will review the 4th down play. They determined that Morgan did drop the ball, and the Jags will take over on downs.
- This, of course, is illegal by NFL rules, since another play was run before the review was initiated.

As you can guess, pure pandemonium ensued in the stadium. the video shows that the head referree did not make an announcement to the stadium for 6 straight minutes. Of course they would be angry and confused! So the people in the stands found anything they could - usually empty beer bottles - and threw them on the field in a show of anger, displeasure and frustration.

After those 6 mi nutes, the head ref - Terry McAulay - decided it was too dangerous to continue the game and unilaterally called the game. "The Game is Over", he announced. The teams headed to the locker room.

Paul Tagliabue got on the phone quickly and said "uh no, get back out there and finish the game.". So, 20 minutes later, the teams went back on the field and completed 2 kneeldowns to officially end the game.

I don't think any Browns fan will ever forget that game. My quick thoughts:

1. I can't believe the NFL did not prepare ofr this sort of scenario. I'm sure they did not see it playing out like this. I will firmly believe that McAulay botched the execution of a possible late signal from the booth.

2. Gus Johnson was announcing the game. Just keep that in mind!

3. Gus correctly lambasted the ref for not getting on the speaker and communicating to the crowd what was going on. That, in my mind, was 80% of the problem.

4. There already was a feeling that the NFL was out to get us. In the past 6 years before this game, the NFL - forced us to fight for our name and colors, gave us a shitty deal in terms of preparation time for an expansion team and a much more deal for draft picks than what Carolina and Jacksonville got, and there was still lingering hatred for even allowing the move to Baltimore. So our paranoia with the NFL was more than justified.

5. I would have loved to know if Vegas made the call to the NFL offices to say - uh, boys, get back on the field. I truly believe that's the only reason why they played those last 48 seconds.

To the picks. Is this the day. Is the the day where the browns finally win ????At home vs. a depleted Bengals team?

Pit 24, Buf 23 I hate this game. I can't trust the Steelers on the road and I don't feel like I can trust the Bills and Rex just yet - especially after last week's meltdown at Oakland.

SD 27, Car 20.  It's over for teh Panthers. They are done for the year.

Det 27, Chi 17. Boy, maybe I should wakeup to this Detroit defense....

Ind 23, Hou 16 All right, so IN underestimated the Colts last Monday night. I can't see the Texans scoring on anyone. Why aren't they on our schedule over the next 4 weeks?

Min 17,Jax 10. Trap! Why is this line only 3???

Mia 31, Arz 20.  Last week was just the wrong opponent for the Dolphins - they struggled on the road against the #1 rushing D. Should have an easier time today.

Was 20, Phi 17.  I can't figure out either of these teams this year.

Ten 24, Den16. Again, someone tell me how Denver is going to score.

SF 24, NYJ 17.  I recognize something in these Niners...this is a classic false hope situation where a struggling team starts to play better in the 2nd half of the season, but will still be bad.

TB 30, NO 20. I know, I'm probably too late on this bandwagon...

GB 28, Sea 27. Have we forgotten that the Seahawks are awful on the road?

LA 31, Atl 30.  I know, I can't resist here. There's one last stand for the Rams....

Dal 26, NYG 23. Do these teams play each other 5 times a year?

NE 23, Bal 20. I'll repeat what I said last week - there's something off about the Patriots offense.

Best bets: 16 of them. Last week: 6-10; overall: 77-77-7

SD +1.5
Det -7
Hou/Ind under 47.5
Min -3
Min/JAx under 39
Mia +2
Az/Mia over 43.5
Was/Phi under 47.5
Ten -2
SF -3
TB -1.5
GB +3
GB/Sea over 44.5
LA +5.5
Atl?LA over 44.5
Bal +6.5

My personal supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 31-32-2
Mia -1
Ten -1
TB -2.5
GB +2.5
LA +6

Combined Supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 31-30-4
Mia -1
Phi +1
Ten -1
TB -2.5
Bal +7

Dec 4, 2016

NFL Week 13: September 8, 2002

Year 4 of the re-birth started with plenty of promise. After the first two seasons of 2-14 and 3-13, we were competitive in Year Three, with a young coach plucked from the college ranks (Butch Davis) and some young talent on both sides of the ball.

We went 7-9 in 2001, with one of those losses highlighted here before (the Chicago) and another heartbreaking, undeserved, stolen loss to be detailed later. So there was reason to believe that this team was truly an 8-8, 9-7 team that would only get better in 2002.

Our opener was a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Many recall that the early 2000s Browns were filled with QB controversies, with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb battling it out for years for the starting spot. For the start of 2002, Timmy got injured and Kelly was our started for week 1. The Chiefs' QB was Trent Green, himself a victim of a QB controversy over in St Louis as Kurt Warner replace him.

Anyway, this was a shoot out for the ages. We had no running game, so all we did was pass; Kelly had over 350 yards and 3 TDs. Priest Holmes had 4 TDs, I believe. Down 37-36, we kicked a FG with :20 sec to take the lead, 39-37. Now, if we can only hold on for the last 20 seconds....

The Chiefs got the ball to about their own 40 with :02 on the clock. Time for one last play for them. Green went back, hoping to have enough time for a Hail Mary - but the Browns rush came on too quick. Green was grabbed,spun around, and looked like he was sacked.....the clock hit :00.... Dwayne Rudd was the primary player that grabbed him.

However, Green was not down. He managed to lateral the ball to one of his offensive linemen, who had plenty of running room. Jon Tait was the lineman - and he got the bal around the KC 40 - he ran (slowly) to his left - to the 50...to the 40. There are no Browns in the picture......

I was screaming and panicking at that moment. Where the hell is everyone????? Where's the defense?
Finally - some help came around the 30 yard line, and Tait was pushed out at the 25. Ball game. We win the opener!

Or do we ? All Browns fans know that the game is never over when the clock hits :00; it's not even over when the clock is at :00 and the refs are in the locker room.....

A flag is seen on the field - and by now, many of you know what had happened. Rudd, thinking that Green had been sacked and down, started celebrating and took off his helmet. He didn't realize the play was still going on - and Tait was running down the field......Taking your helmet of during the play is an automatic penalty - 15 yards.

Here is Chris Berman giving highlights for that play.....

The game can not end on a defensive penalty * - so the 15 yards was tacked on to the end of Tait's run; the Chiefs ran an untimed down from our 12, where of course they lined up for a field goal - and Morten Andersen made it. Final (for good this time), Chiefs 40-39.

Most NFL teams will never experience an untimed down; for Browns fans, we have lost 3 games to an untimed down over the past 15 years:

2002 - The Helmet Game
2008 - The Brady Quinn game in Detroit, where Quinn threw for 4 touchdowns;
2015- The San Diego game where we jumped offsides on a missed field goal; the Chargers got a second chance and made it on an untimed down.

This doesn't even include the fiasco two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh where the Steelers got TWO untimed downs at the end of the first half; with :02 left and the Steelers at our 1, they threw an incomplete pass but we were called for holding; on the untimed down, we were called for another penalty. The Steelers got the touchdown on the 3rd try. I'm sure that's a record - most untimed downs in one half.

* - We now know that a game can not end on a defensive penalty, but it CAN end on an offensive penalty - thanks to John Harbaugh. I had the Ravens -4, so that safety did not hurt me.

All finished ok in the Browns 2002 season, however; even with that loss, we ended up 9-7 and won a massive tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.

To the games:

Atl 24, KC 16. I believe there's got to be some hangover effect for the Chiefs, and the Falcons can't afford to lose.

Bal 20, Mia 13 Bal's defense is excellent against the run, so that forces Miami to pass - and I dont' trust Tannehill on the road.

Chi 30, SF 20. Barkley actually looked good last week. I have faith in him.

Phi 23, Cin 20. I think the Bengals are ready to quit on the season. Will be interesting to see the line next week when they go visit Cleveland.

GB 31, Hou 20. Maybe last week's Packers' game is a mirage. But boy, are the Texans awful on offense.

Den 20, Jax 10. How exactly are the Jags going to score?

NE 27, LA 20. I really didn't like the way Brady looked lat week vs. the Jets. Of course, he will prove me wrong and come out firing for 500 yards today....

NO 31, Det 23. I still think Detroit is a fraud...

Oak 23, Buf 20. Speakig of frauds, here are two of them. Or maybe they are above-average teams that know how to beat inferior opponents.

Az 23, Was 16. I think there is one last stand in store for Arizona. At home, vs. a road-weary Redskins team....

Pit 27, NYG 23.  I so want to go against the Giants here, but folks - something is off with Pittsburgh. Their defense is shaky and they only have one receiver.

SD 27, TB 20. Why can't the Chargers run the table for the rest of their games?

Sea 27, Car 13. The Seahawks, at home, in a prime time game, coming off an embarassing loss? Yes please.

NYJ 20, Ind 17. Looks like the Colts are regressing this year. I fear for Luck with that line vs. the Jet's rush.

Best bets: 16 of them. Last week: 7-6-1; overall: 71-67-7.
Atl -5.5
KC/Atl under 50
Bal -3.5
Mia/Bal under 41
Chi +2
SF/Chi over 43,5
Phi +1.5
GB -6.5
Den -3.5
LA +13.5
Az -2.5
Was/Az under 48.5
SD -3.5
Sea -7.5
NYJ +1.5
Ind/NYJ under 48.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-2-1; overall: 29-29-2
Az -2.5
Atl -4
LA +13.5
Sea -6.5
NYJ +2

Our combined Supercontest picks: last week: 3-1-1; overall: 29-27-4
Phi pk
Oak -3
SD -3.5
Az -2.5
NYJ +2

Nov 27, 2016

NFL Week 12: January 11, 1987

Hello there - We now resume regular blogging after a November filled with the election, anniversary and holiday travel. Just got back last night from the east coast - avoiding Pennsylvania turnpike traffic on the Sunday after Thanksgiving is a must. I've done that drive many times on the last Sunday in November and I have waited 60, 90 minutes at toll booths...never again.

Anyway, had a chance to drive by the old high school in Maryland for the first time in 7-8 years. Several additions have been made and some of the parts are not recognizable. However, the New Gym is still there - and that's the site of one of Cleveland's greatest (and infamous) sports memories.

( I will still refer to that gym as the "New Gym", even as it was in use when I was there; I think it opened in 1982 or 1983 and is now almost 35 years old. I wonder what is in place of the "Old Gym" now....)

The day was Sunday, January 11, one day after I turned 15. I had an indoor soccer game that afternoon, The Browns were playing in their first AFC Championship game vs. Denver, who at that time were not considered evil just yet. A week ago, we had a home playoff game vs. the Jets and was down 10 with 2 minutes to go; we somehow tied the game - sending it to overtime; the game went to double overtime and we won it on a Moseley field goal. People talk about the Miami/San Diego playoff game in the 70s to be the greatest game of all time; I think this Browns/Jets game from the '86 playoffs is better and should be #1.

Anyway - one week later we host the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Due to the soccer game, I set my VCR (just like the week before) in order to watch the game after my soccer game.

(By the way - that indoor season pissed me off. You know how there are always individual starts in rec league that always beat your team, and they seem to be on the teams that are 12-2, or 11-1, or whatnot? Yeah - we had one kid in our age group like that. And on this team this year, I was actually randomly drawn to be on his team! Awesome....until we ended up going 6-6 or something. The one time I get to be on the same team as the star, we go .500..... It can't be me, can it? Don't answer that).

The game was 3 pm or 4 pm or something like that - late in the afternoon. I do remember someone - maybe the arriving team of the game after us? - saying loudly: "the Browns and Broncos game went to overtime!". Well, gee thanks, thanks for ruining the suspense for those that have it taped.

So we go home - the game was over by then - and we rewind the tape; I watch the Browns score a TD with 5 minutes left to go up 20-13. Since I know we went to overtime, I just fast forward through the next 5 minutes, since I know what happens. Of course, that's 5 minutes of the most painful football in Cleveland memory, as Elway led the Broncos on the Drive.

I stop at the coin toss and watch it live; we win the toss. Great!

And then we go 3 and out.  Punt it away.

The Broncos then got the ball, moved down the field, and their drive stalled around the 15. Rich Karlis came out on 4th down to attempt the kick.....

the video of the field goal is here. .

Look, I thought he missed it watching it live (on tape). The fact there there has been no discussion of this - ever  - is certainly fishy. All Browns fans I know that watched this game are convinced he missed it.

The fact that I have to go to some second-rate website to even find the video is telling. Why is the NFL erasing the tapes from the kick?

I will go to my grave believing these 2 facts...and no one will be able to convince me otherwise:

1. Ross Perot would have won the 1992 presidential election if he did not drop out, and
2. Rich Karlis missed his overtime kick in the 1986 AFC Championship game.

That is all......let's go beat the Giants today.

To the games:

Min 27, Det 16. I can't believe the result of this game...
Dal 31, Was 23
Pit 27, Ind 10 
(these are the predictions I made Wed night).

Atl 24, Arz 16. Wow, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that the Cardinals' O is bad...really bad.

Bal 23, Cin 13. Cincinnati looks like a team that knows its window has closed and their 5 year run is over. Thank goodness for us Bengals haters in SW Ohio.

Buf 27, Jax 16. At this point, what can you say about Jacksonville? They will always give the game up when needed.

Ten 28, Chi 27. I can't trust this Tennessee defense to stop anyone. Even Matt Barkley....They can score, sure....

Hou 23, SD 20. SD off a bye, where their offense was clicking; the bye will take them out of rhythm.

Mia 23, SF 13. San Fran is the opposite of Cincinnati/Jacksonville; they seem to be improving as the season goes on here....

NO 24, LA 17. I guess we will give the rams 17 points...that loss last week was bitter.

Sea 27, TB 24. This will be a good test of how good Winston is vs. a decent pass defense.

Car 26, Oak 23. I'm still not sold on this Oakland team. They can be beaten by a team with a decent defense (check) that does not turn the ball over (uh, Cam?)

NE 31, NYJ 17. Why stand in front of the Pats' bus at this point?

KC 20, Den 17. I believe last week's hiccup for the Chiefs was a lookahead game to this game. What is the Denver offense? The Chiefs will limit them.

Phi 27, GB 20. The Packers are the 3rd team that I think are imploding. Their whole body language says they are finished.

Best bets: 14 total for the week; last week: 8-6; overall: 64-61-6
Min +2.5 (L)
Pit -3 (W)
Pit/Ind under 50 (W)
Atl -4
Az/Atl under 50.5
Bal -3.5
Chi +6
Ten/Chi over 41.5
Hou +2.5
SF/Mia under 46
Car +3.5
NE -8
KC +3.5
Phi -3.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 27-27-1
KC +3.5
Min +2.5 (L)
Car +3
Bal -4
Hou +1.5

Overall combined official Supercontest picks: last week: 1-4; overall: 26-26-3
SD -1.5
KC +3.5
Bal -4
Car +3
Min +2.5 (L)

Nov 20, 2016

NFL Week 11

No time for a writeup as we are headed to the airport....


Buf 27, Cin 24
Dal 20, Bal 14
Jax 27, Det 24
Ten 30, Ind 20
KC 23, TB 13
Min 16, Az 13
NYG 27, Chi 16
LA 23, Mia 16
NE 27, SF 10
Sea 17, Phi 13
Was 31, GB 20
Oak 26, Hou 16

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 8-6; overall: 56-55-6
Buf +2.5
Bal/Dal under 45
Jax +6
Ten +2.5
KC -7
TB/KC under 44
Az/Min under 40
NYG -7
LA +2
NE -11.5
NE/SF under 51
Phi/Sea under 42.5
Was -3
Oak -6

I have 5 unders and zero overs. Don't like that.

Personal supercontest picks: Last week: 3-2; overall: 25-24-1
Buf +2.5
Jax +6.5
Ten +3
LA +2.5
Was -2.5

Combined official supercontest picks: Last week: 1-4; overall: 25-22-3
Ten +3
Jax +6.5
LA +2.5
GB -3
Oak -5.5

Nov 13, 2016

NFL Week 10: November 8, 2016

Hello everyone. What a week of intrigue, chaos and unpredictable results. And now we have no idea what's going to happen in the short term.

But enough about college football. I want to take some time and move away from sporting memories to put down some thoughts on the presidential election. This will be a bit of a post-mortem, there will be some perspective from my viewpoint, and an idea of where we are going in the future. I welcome any discussion in the comments. We've had civil arguments before on this blog - I'd love to return to those days!

Anyway, some key thoughts floating around in my head after the election on Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

1. Political Messaging counts. And this was Hillary's Achilles' heel in the end. I think I read that Hillary's team tried 75 different possibilities for a single message - before deciding on 2 that were seen throughout the campaign:

- "Stronger Together" - we'll get to that in a moment, and
- "Love Trumps Hate".

If you think about it, those two messages contradicted each other. "Stronger together" implies that we, as a nation, would be better if we all come together.....which sounds great.....except when you hear the second theme. It seems they want the nation to come together except for the "haters". And haters can be defined very loosely.  So which is it?

The Love Trumps Hate has got to be the stupidest message in the last 50 years for America. We have real, serious problems in the US - and this is the answer. It's like we are living in "Aquarius: the Sequel" in Broadway.

ISIS Violence? No problem, if we just "love" them, it will go away.
Gun violence/regulation ? Those in favor of the 2nd amendment are just people who hate.
Illegal Immigration? Let's just "love" those that come here illegally, and all the problems will go away.

Of course, I'm not saying Trump has the solutions for these with his motto....but Hillary's message is dated. It's a very idealistic goal for a very realistic time. Completely 180 from what the electorate wanted.

2. The "hidden Trump vote" factor is real, exacerbated by bullying. In 1982, Tom Bradley won the election for mayor of Los Angeles over a African-America candidate; the African-American was leading in the polls until the end when Bradley pulled off a win. Political scientists (I studied this!) postulated abut the "Bradley effect" - that people may not tell pollsters their real intentions in a voice poll, but will certainly reveal their intentions at the ballot box. In the Bradley case, the theory was that a certain part of the electorate was racist that told pollster one thing but voted for  Bradley.

 I do believe this effect was in play for the 2016 election. For many reasons, it has become "unfashionable" to out yourself as a Trump supporter. "Are you an idiot?" is a popular question I hear of people that are thinking of supporting Trump. There's no debate of the issues....it's simply "groupthink". If the popular culture is all for Hillary, then you are a rube for thinking otherwise!

That's dangerous. And that just pissed people off.

One great example is HB2 in North Carolina. Look, I feel like I am socially moderate. (I have moved to the left, like the nation, on several issues socially). I'm for gay marriage and abortion.

But HB2 - the transgender bill in North Carolina - I'm sorry, I don't understand it. What's the point of the bill? How will this affect businesses? How many people does this affect? What's the impact to the population? I'm open to it, I just want to understand it better. I think there are legit concerns that some mothers have of men coming into women's restrooms. How to alleviate that?

Again, I'm open to hear arguments - but there were no arguments. It was "shut up - if you oppose this, you are a bigot. Sit down and shut up". Seriously! And the NCAA goes in and takes away tournmanet games...on the basis of a law where (I am guessing) 80% of the people are genuinely on the fence about. That's bullying. That's political bullying, and I think voters sent a message that they won't be bullied.

If you can't argue a position (besides "you are a hater"), that's a red flag.

This British comedian has the best explanation for Trump's rise - and the fault of the left for making this possible. I urge everyone to watch this so we all - left, right and moderate - don't fall into the same trap again....

3. It is unfathomable how the Clinton campaign did not know how to campaign to maximize electoral votes. I know this has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.... but not going into Wisconsin and Michigan (until the very end) was malpractice.  They should have seen that McCrory was in a dead heat in North Carolina, so the "bigot"/"love" argument may not be working in North Carolina. They should have seen the countryside in Ohio, Pennsylvania, even Virginia (as reported by a reader here) and the mass amount of Trump signs.

They were focused on turning people out- but the people they turned out didn't matter. They lived in 7-8 states, states that were so dark blue it wasn't needed. The people influenced by this message as something to vote "for" lived in CA, WA, NY, MD, DC, VA. All states that were already in the bag for Hillary. Running up the vote there did not matter. At All.

There were plenty of anti-Trump ads from Hillary here in Ohio. That's fine.....but she never had a message for swing state voters to vote for her. Why should a middle class housewife in Dayton vote for her? Why should a union member from Youngstown vote for her? These are people that voted for Obama twice.....

The campaign never realized that these voters are the ones that swing the election, rightly or wrongly. And they never played to them.

The electoral college is the method to pick our president. The Clinton campaign acted if the popular vote determined the winner. The electoral college is why Trump when to Green Bay, WI, Grand Rapids, MI and Scranton, PA at the end of the campaign. If the popular vote decided the election, the Trump campaign would have had a much, much different strategy.

I remember a Browns game in the early  90s when we beat the Bengals 14-13. it was a weird game - Matt Stover (!!!) had four field goals and we had a safety; that was just enough to beat the Bengals' more conventional 13 points.

Many "whiners" sound like the Bengals fans from that game. "but you didn't even score a touchdown! You don't deserve to win!" You play by the rules of the game. It's not touchdowns, it points. It's not the popular vote, it's the electoral college. The electoral college was set up for a reason - to prevent large populous states from having too much say in the nation. It's working exactly as intended....

4. Which gets us to the riots. I'm lost. What, exactly, are they protesting? What do they want? Is this just a temper tantrum? If so, this can logically be seen as the end point of our participation-trophy culture. Is it because Hillary won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote? If so, then please re-take civics again.

Saw a tweet out there that is a perfect summary of my thought on the riots:

Many people out there voted for Trump reluctantly with a tinge of regret......
What the rioters are doing right now simply confirms they made the right choice.

(by the way - that picture up above? That's the infamous Romney riots of 2012)

There are serious risks with the Trump presidency - I know, maybe I'll have time to go into them later. The risks were publicized by Clinton and her team - but no overarching reason to vote "for" her was actaully given.

I wanted to put a point 5 here - it's extremely difficult to win the presidency when you are of the same party of someone who just served 2 terms (see Stevenson*, Nixon, Gore, McCain.....). HW Bush did it because he ran against a horrible candidate in Dukakis. Clinton had to try to walk a fine line of "everything's great! Obama is wonderful" and "I hear you! We need change!". A good politican will have lots of trouble with that.....never mind a horrible one like Hillary.

After all that, no time for writeups on the games....here we are:

Car 25, KC 13
Hou 20, Jax 17
NO 30, Den 20
NYJ 20, LA 13
Phi 27, Atl 24
Chi 30, TB 24
Gb 31, Ten 27
Was 23, Min 13
Mia 24, SD 20
Az 20, SF 17
Pit 27, Dal 24
NE 31, Sea 21
Cin 27, NYG 17

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 6-7-1; overall: 48-49-6
Car -3
Hou +2.5
NO -3
NYJ pk
LA/NYJ under 39.5
Chi -2.5
Chi/TB over 45.5
GB/ten over 49.5
Was -2
Min/Was under 42
Mia +4.5
SF +13.5
SF/Az under 47.5
Cin -1

My supercontest picks: last week: 1-4; overall : 22-22-1
Car -3
Mia +4
Cin +2
NO -3
SF +13.5

Our combined Supercontest picks: Last week: 3-1-1; overall: 24-18-3
Cle +9.5 (Loss)
Car -3
NO -3
NYJ -1.5
Phi pk