Oct 23, 2016

NFL Week 7: December 23, 2007

The World Series is set! It's our Cleveland Indians vs. the globe's darlings, the Chicago Cubs. Everyone without a rooting interest will be for the Cubs - so, once again, it's Cleveland vs. the world. I like that position. The series line has opened Chicago -180/Cleveland +155, and moving the Cubs' direction. I think that is a bit inflated, no?

The first ever -ever! - World Series Game 1 opener in Cleveland will be Tuesday night. Hard to believe that in our previous 5 World Series (20, 48, 54, 95, 97) we did not have home field.

Anyway, the World Series has distracted me from Browns-Bengals week! I moved down to Southwest Ohio in 1994 and immediately hated most Bengals fans from the start. These games are big to make sure these idiots are put in their place; they are not the mid-70s Steelers or the early-90s Niners. They are a mediocre football team at best and need to be reminded of that. That's why even if we are pathetic, we need to put up a good game.

I've been to many Browns-Bengals games in the past:
- 91, where Steve got me Media seats in the old stadium; we sat in the baseball press box on a Monday night next to the field goal camera;
- 95, the last game at Municipal
- 99, an epic battle between Tim Couch and Akili Smith (hint- that was sarcasm)
- 09, Warren's first game, an overtime win by Cinci
- and a few games down here in Cincinnati where, if we were lucky, Browns fans took over the stadium by the 3rd quarter.

But the one game that sticks out and is so painful is the 2007 game down here in Cincinnati, week 16. 2007 was a magical year for the Browns - it started so bad with a 45-7 loss to the Steelers and Charlie Frye being benched. Our starter game 2 was Derek Anderson, an unknown quantity at the time. He responded by leading the Browns to 51 points (!!!!) vs. the Bengals in Cleveland, and our offense started to click. Anderson had Braylon, Jurevicius, and Winslow as his primary receivers and a rookie Joe Thomas on the line. The defense was decent enough.

So many memorable games that year - a huge win at home vs. Seattle....Freddie's first game, a 41-31 win over Miami.....the Phil Dawson field goal controversy in Baltimore.....I traveled to Asia for the first time and followed the Browns' win over the Jets in week 14; on the way home, I stopped at Layup's place and we went to a bar to see the Browns-Buffalo snow bowl - an 8-0 Browns win.

We entered week 16 with a 9-5 record and with a win against the Bengals, would clinch our first playoff birth in 5 years. My friend Keith - a lifelong Bengals fan - asked if I wanted to go with him - hell yes! The game was 2 days before Christmas, and at least half filled with Browns fans.

The weather was cold and windy - about 30, and I'd say 20 mph winds. I remember the wind the most. The wind definitely had an impact on our passing game. We were not that strong running the ball - I think Jamal Lewis was our lead back - so we had to pass to move the ball.

This is where the "bad" Derek Anderson emerged. He played tight, and forced the ball numerous times to Winslow when he was clearly not open. (It later became public that Winslow was complaning about not getting the ball and insisted more opportunities). Forcing throws in a cold, windy game by Derek? Of course! A recipe for success!

He had 4 interceptions in the game, 3 in the first half, and we were behind 19-0 at half. Our mastermind coach, Romeo, must have laid the wood down at half time. The offense responded a little; we scored a TD in the 3rd and early in the 4th; we stopped the Bengals run game - so it was 19-14 for most of the 4th quarter. However, we just couldn't find one more sustained drive...... the game ended with the Browns having the ball at the Bengals 30 and Derek throwing to no one in the end zone.

Just an absolutely crushing loss. Not only was I taunted by those loser fans leaving the stadium (with Keith joining in a little), the playoff permutations now were convoluted and we no longer controlled our own destiny. Tennessee had the inside track to the playoffs and the Steelers owned the division tiebreaker against us.

(Side note - our week 17 game was against San Fran, an NFC opponent; the game meany absolutely nothing. We could not win our division; if we won or lost, it was dependent on Tennessee's game vs. Indy. If they won, we were out (no matter what); if they lost, we were in (no matter what). This scenario is the reason why the NFL only plays division games (and  no out-of-conference games) on week 17 now.....). Oh, and that Tennessee game? They played a 12-3 Colts team that sat down Peyton Manning. So the fate of Cleveland was in the hands of......Jim Sorgi.......it did not turn out well.

I'm still bitter about that game, the Colts, Sorgi, Winslow, .....so many factors.

On to the games:

LA 24, NYG 17. Is anyone really deceived by the Giants 3-3 record and think they are a good team? I am shocked they are favored.

Det 28, Was 20. I like what I see out of the Detroit offense - and, in Detroit, I don't think the Redskins have the weapons to keep up with the Lions.

Oak 31, Jax 23. I've bet on the Jags enough to know their MO; they are average offensively with a below average run game, and their secondary is susceptible to vertical passing games. I think Oakland is a horrid matchup for them.

KC 27, NO 17. People realize this game is played outdoors, right? I keep having the Saints/Giants game in my mind as a preview for this game.

Buf 20, Mia 17. I think Miami is putrid, but can I really trust Buffalo after 4 straight wins? They are not that good.

Bal 23, NYJ 16. I know, back to the well on this one. Harbaugh has to have some surprises for Geno, right? And are the Jets on the verge of quitting?

Min 20, Phi 17. I am starting to believe that the bye weeks for teams on a roll are a bad think - see the Eagles after their week 4 bye! Low scoring game here with the Eagles keeping it close.

Ten 27, Ind 17. The Colts are about to implode, and I believe LeBeau will be able to expose that offensive line of the Colts.

Atl 30, SD 20. A good team - Atlanta - at home, coming off a crushing loss playing a team coming off a big win and can shoot themselves in the foot? I think the Falcons cruise here.

TB 23, SF 20. No idea. I'm shocked at how bad Colin looked last week.

Pit 30, NE 27. Just a wild hunch here. NE is not as good as we think - see the first half last week vs. the Bengals - and Landry should be comfortable enough in this offense.

Sea 24, Az 16. I think Seattle is starting to find itself and there's something wrong with Arizona this year...playing the Jets mask a lot of flaws.

Den 20, Hou 13. Everyone is concentrating on the Houston side of the ball here - but how will Denver score in this game?

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 6-4-2; overall: 29-30-4
LA +2.5
KC - 6
NO/KC under 51.5
Det -1
Buf/Mia under 44.5
Oak +2
Oak/Jax over 47
Ten -3.5
Bal +2
Atl -5.5
Pit +7
NE/Pit over 48
Sea +1
Hou/Den under 40.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 4-0-1; overall: 16-13-1
Oak +1
LA +3
Ten -2.5
Det -1.5
Pit +7

Our official combined Supercotnest picks: last week: 4-0-1; overall: 17-12-1
KC -6.5
Oak +1
LA +3
Bal pk
Det -1.5

Oct 16, 2016

NFL Week 6: April 24, 1996

Back at home after the long drive back from the Game 2 ALCS victory by the Tribe last night. Another low scoring white knuckler, where the starter (Tomlin, in this case) high-wires it into the 6th; Francona gets him out as soon as there is danger in the 3rd time through the order; Miller does his thing and then we hope we have good Cody Allen to finish up. It somehow all worked last night, and we are now up 2-0 in the ALCS.

The twitter got me thinking - what is my own personal playoff record? What's my record for games I have attended? I think the following is correct:

NBA: 0
MLB: Now 3-1, all ALCS games with the Indians. (This does not count the 1999 Tie breaker game 163 between the Mets and Reds at Riverfront.....anyone remember that?)
NFL: A perfect 1-0!
NHL: 0-2....

With the start of the NHL season this week, let's reflect on that first NHL playoff loss...a heartbreaking game that is still listed as one of the top 10 all time great games in NHL history. And somehow, Layup and I were there.

Some background: As I started to become more of a sports fan in the mid to late 80s, hockey was always the 4th sport. I never played, and it was very rarely on TV growing up. The closest team to us was - of course - the Washington Capitals. So I started to follow them a bit; the 1987 season was the best season they had....and I remember that ending in the Easter morning game 7 loss to the Islanders. Painful playoff losses? Great! I'm hooked!

I went to college in 1990, and met up with Steve, who was a huge hockey fan. We started watching games during the winter (remember, these games were not on ESPN - they were on SportsChannel....another remnant from the early 90s). Steve was a Penguins fan (being the closest team to Cleveland).....we had many spring tournament road trips where he and I would watch an annual Penguins-Capitals playoff series, always resulting in a Caps loss in 6, usually 7 games. it was predictable every year. But because I hated everything yellow and black, there was no way I could root for the Pens.

(Sidetrack - I remember a trip to Carnegie in 1991 for a tournament; of course the Pens/Caps were playing. All Steve and I wanted to do was to get a 6 pack of MGD and watch the game in the hotel room....but that is literally impossible in Pennsylvania. He (I was underage) had to buy a 24 pack of bottles for the one night. I'm not sure what happened to the rest of that beer. (Of course, the Caps lost, I probably beat him in Gin that night, however.....and in the chipping contest in the hallway)

Fast forward to 1996. I was working in Dayton for the military contractor at the time, and I was sent to the DC area for a week of training on some software. It just so happened that Tuesday night that week was Game 4 of the Caps-Pens series at US Air Arena in Landover! Layup was at the U of Md at the time - was it your junior year? I called him up (probably spoke to Jay or Leland 3 times trying to get a hold of Layup) and found out he was free; so I called to get tickets and we would pick them up at will call.

The training ended at 5; I drove to College Park to pick Layup up, and then we drove to the Arena. The Caps were up 2 games to 1, with a chance here to go up 3-1 in the series.

I really don't recall anything about regulation - I watched the highlights of the game this morning to refresh myself.....the Caps - of course - were up 2-0 in the game, and the Pens got back into it on a shorthanded goal by Jagr late in the 2nd. I think Layup and I both knew that was a bad, bad sign.

Lemieux actually received a game misconduct for fighting against our bruiser - so he was lost for the 3rd (and the rest of the game). No matter. The Pens tied it up about midway through the 3rd on a goal by Nedved; the Caps seem to go in a shell on offense - and regulation ended up tied, 2-2.

Off we go to overtime. The first overtime was uneventful; no chances, and we remained tied after 20 minutes of overtime. Now what?  It was about 10:45 pm or so..... (game started at 7)...... how late were we going to stay? Layup was ok staying for another period, I was 24 and could survive my way through training with coffee, so ok - let's stay another period.

The second overtime was memorable; on a rush, Juneau just missed as the puck was rolling around in the crease; in the scramble, a Penguin knocked the net off. Long discussion.....and the result? A penalty shot!!!! I think this was the first penalty shot ever award in overtime. It was clearly the correct call.

Juneau took the penalty shot ------ it was late in the period, and the puck started bouncing around on the ice; he never got a clear shot off and Ken Wregget denied him. On we played.

Second overtime ended....now it's about 11:40 or so....decision time---- we will stay.

Third overtime - not much happened. Olaf Kolzig was excellent for us. No score. Now it's 12:30 am in the morning; I still have to take him back to College Park and then drive back to my hotel (I think in Northern Va).....hoo boy, this is getting late......ok, we will stay for one more.

Fourth overtime - with about 2:30 left in the fourth overtime, a penalty was called on us. BS. (looking at the replay today, it probably was the correct call). And with 10 seconds left on the penalty, 40 seconds left in the 4th OT, Nedved scored with a shot that Kolzig was screened on. Pittsburgh wins, 3-2.  

What a horribly deflating finish to our first playoff hockey game. I think I dropped Layup off at campus around 2 and got back to my hotel around 2;30. Up at 7 for the training - and yes, I fell asleep a few times that day during the training.

(by the way - nothing screams mid-1990s than a game on ESPN2 with those lower case graphics...and the teal Capitals uniforms....God, were they ugly)

On to the games:

Buf 24, SF 17. Will be interesting to see how the 49ers respond to Kap getting the start again. Key here - can Buffalo pass the ball effectively, since their run will be shut down?

Jax 27, Chi 24. I can't help myself here. I think the Jags are ready to play better after London and Chicago has nothing defensively. Should be high scoring.

LA 27, Det 20. Detroit is a fraud, and LA is unpredictable. Just when you think the Rams are good, they let you down. When you think they are bad.....

Pit 23, Mia 21. Miami has to have 1 decent game in here, no? Pittsburgh has New England next week.

NE 30, Cin 23. Is this a must win game for the Bengals? So disappointed in them against the Cowboys last week. They had no D, no passing game, ....

Car 30, NO 27. Staying away from both these teams until I can figure out either 1. How many steps Cam has lost and 2. Can the Saints play any sort of defense?

Bal 20, NYG 17. In a battle of bad teams, go with the best coach. McAdoo has issues on the Giants sideline.

Phi 24, Was 23. Why did I get sucked in on the Eagles on the road last week? This should be a close game, going either way.

KC 27, Oak 20. KC, off a bye, needs a bounceback, and their defense will keep Oakland in check. Smith and the Chiefs will have lots of sustained drives against the Raiders.

GB 23, Dal 17. Something is off with Rodgers and his timing/chemistry. Green Bay should stop the Dallas passing game - so lots of long, clock eating drives for the Cowboys.

Sea 27, Atl 20. it will be very interesting to see how Atlanta's offense performs in Seattle. I'll sit this one out and just watch.

Hou 31, Ind 20. I'll take the team with some defense against the team with none.

Az 27, NYJ 23.  I think the Cards are not as good as people think...they will survive here, but the Jets will make it tough.

Best bets: 12 of them. Last week: 7-5-1; overall: 30-31-3
Jax +1.5
Jax/Chi over 45.5
LA +3
Mia +7
Pit/Mia under 49
Cin/NE over 47.5
Bal +3.5
Bal/NYG under 44
KC -1.5
Dal/GB under 47.5
Hou -3
NYJ +7.5

My supercontest picks: Last week: 2-3; overall: 12-13
Hou -3
LA +3.5
KC pk
Mia +7.5
Jax +2.5

Our combined official picks: Last week: 3-2; overall: 13-12
SD +3 (win)
NO +3
Hou -3
KC pk
LA +3.5

Oct 9, 2016

NFL Week 5: October 2, 2013

We are in the middle of October baseball here at F&J. I will refrain from commenting anything about the current series, as I have seen this story repeated before in 1999 and 2007. I talked about 2007 last week; 1999's series was not all that painful given the best pitcher in baseball at the time - Pedro - was heavily involved.  But I do want to cover a recent loss in Cleveland sports history that was fairly memorable - the 2013 Wild Card game.

The Indians team of 2013 was a Francona special - some power in the lineup, some (not a huge amount) of starting pitching but a shaky bullpen. With 25 games to go, we were 72-65, and in the fringes of playoff contention; we went 20-5 to end the season to just fall short of the division title, but we ended 1 game up in the wild card standings. Our starting pitching to end the season was: Kazmir, good Ubaldo, young Kluber, a rookie in Salazar, and a spot starter in McAllister. Not overpowering, but decent. Our lineup had a hot Michael Bradley, a Nick Swisher on fumes, a 74 yard old Jason Giambi, a rising Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, and a unexpected power source in Yan Gomes. Again, not the 27 Yanks, but solid enough.   Our bullpen - up until about mid-September - was anchored by Chris Perez. I was in China at the time; there was no better excuse for daytime drinking than to see Chris Perez on gamecast trying to close out your game at 10 am on a weekday. 

I remember being very happy that this bunch was able to sneak into the playoffs as the Wild Card this year. What a great idea - the Wild Card! A one-game play in to see who would take on the division winner. The idea seemed great at the time.... and we got to host it! Obviously, we never got a chance to set our rotation up, since we didn't clinch until the last day - so our starter was the rookie, Danny Salazar.

Our opponent that night was Tampa Bay. Tampa had to win a tie breaker vs. Texas just to get into the wild card game. They came to Cleveland with their rotation in disarray as they too had to keep pressing down the stretch just to get in. Randall Cobb was their starter. 

I remember watching this game in the hotel room in the Phillipines while on vacation. We somehow got the TBS feed. The stadium seemed electric - and it looked like the team was ready. The big question - could Salazar handle the moment? 

Well, this turned out to be one of those games where you just knew - by the 2nd or 3rd inning - that the other starting pitcher was on. Cobb went through our order the first time around with ease. Nothing hard hit. Salazar pitched decently - 3 runs in 5 innings, I think - but Cobb never got in any trouble. We let up a solo HR in the 2nd and a 2 run double in the 3rd - and it was 3-0.

A 3-0 deficit, against a pitcher that was smoking and against a solid opponent - well, that made watching the last 6 innings of the game no fun at all. It was like seeing your own funeral. You know the game is effectively over - You know you aren't going to get any runs without some significant help - so it was a depressing watch. Can we just fast forward through the commercials to get to the end? I know what the ending is. 

I've had this feeling multiple times before in the playoffs- and it's not fun. Playing Pedro in the late 90s. Actually going to the Reds/Mets tiebreaker game (game 163) in 1999 at Riverfront and seeing the Reds overmatched from the 2nd inning on. Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS (talked about before) had a similar feeling. 

Tampa scored a run in the 9th and won the game, 4-0. It was an incredibly anti-climatic ending to a wonderful September. At the time, I hated the 1-game idea and thought it should have been 2-out-of 3.....however, as time goes by, I have changed my thinking, given this experience.  My new thoughts about it:

1. One game playoffs are horrendous, for the participants. I have a feeling Layup may agree after the 2014 Wild Card game. 
2. I now place so, so, so much importance on winning the division, since you avoid the 1 game lottery. I think this is what baseball wanted when they created it. 
3. Therefore, it is a true "benefit" for the division winner to avoid this game; baseball has achieved the correct compromise - expanding the playoffs while still emphasizing the division races.  

So I now like the wild card game. I just hope I don't have to participate in it again. 

On to the games this week - 

Bal 31, Was 17. Baltimore (and Harbaugh) specializes in beating inferior opponents that are poorly coached. I think that describes the Skins well. 

Phi 27, Det 17. I have faith in the Eagles defense here. The Lions have not shown any ability to score against a good defense. I expect the Eagles D to carry them here. 

Ind 31, Chi 20. A kitchen sink game for the Colts; I think this will be a high scoring game and the Bears just don't have enough weapons to keep up. 

Ten 24, Mia 20. The Titans are not a horrible team. They have a decent defense, and I think Miami is such a mess themselves defensively that the Titans will be able to move the ball.

Min 24, Hou 16. The key here is for the Texans to limit any turnovers by Brock. He does that, then the Texans could win, but would you count on him not throwing a pick here? 

Pit 27, NYJ 17. The Steelers will come backdown to earth a bit....but how can you have faith that the Jets will be able to score when needed? 

Den 23, Atl 16. Paxton Lynch starting - it's a good thing the Broncos have a stellar defense. I don't think the Falcons have seen a D close to this level yet this year. 

Cin 23, Dal 17. I think the Bengals will grind this one out and win, based on their run game and run defense. They will force Dax to pass - and that will be a bit of a struggle. 

LA 24, Buf 13. I still can't trust the Bills to be consistent...2 big wins, you know they will lay an egg here. How are the Rams 3-1????

Oak 34, SD 31. An old-fashioned AFC West shootout. Where is Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen to call this game? 

GB 30, NYG 20. God, it's hard to see how the Giants compete here after the awfulness of last Monday night. This will be a good test to see how good the Packers D really is. 

Car 28, TB 27. Dear Vegas - I know Derek Anderson. I've seen him. He is a gunslinger, will throw plenty of long passes and will make mistakes too. I expect a high scoring game. 

Best bets: 13 of them; last week: 5-6; overall: 23-26-2
Bal -4
Phi -3.5
Ind -4.5
Ten +3
NYJ/Pit under 49
Atl/Den under 45.5
Cin -2
Cin/Dal under 45
LA +1
SD/Oak over 51
GB -7
TB +4
TB/Car over 44.5

My supercontest entries: last week: 3-2, overall: 10-10
Bal -4
Ind -4.5
Ten +3.5
Cin -1
Phi -3

Our official team supercontest entry: last week: 2-3, overall: 10-10
Bal -4
Ten +3.5
Pit -7
SD +3.5
Cin -1

Oct 2, 2016

NFL Week 4: October 18, 2007

October baseball is back in Cleveland! Many of you know (or should have known) the Indians clinched the Central on Monday - giving them their first division title in 10 years. (We made the playoffs in 2013, but we made it as a wild card...and I want no part of that game at all. Too many variables in a 1 game situation. Just ask Oakland in 2014....)

This year's team had the pitching to really go far in the playoffs until the injury bug struck. Our #2 and #3 pitchers, Carrasco and Salazar, are now out with injuries, and our ace -Kluber - is suffering through a groin pull. So we have to cobble our rotation together (and Francona is good at doing that) but I don't have a lot of hopes for the next week or two.

It looks like - but I don't think it's set - that we will play Boston in the best of 5 ALDS. Hoo boy, that brings us back 10 years ago to a painful loss. In 2007, we won the AL Central and held off the Yankees in 4 games to win the ALDS. (That was the year of the Joba Chamberlain gnat game). Boston was our opponent in the ALCS that year - and there was a feeling around baseball that this was the de facto World Series - as in the National League, the fluky Colorado Rockies went on to win the NLCS and be in the World Series. Either of these teams were going to kill the Rockies.

We split the first two games in Boston, then came home for games 3-4-5. Somehow, we won games 3 and 4 and had a 3-1 lead going into Game 5 on a Thursday night in Cleveland. Don got tickets, and I think Janice and I drove up with Don and Michelle for Game 5 that night in Cleveland. It was an 8 pm start, I believe.  Were we actually going to see an American League pennant being captured in front of my eyes?

I recall a very bad omen heading into the game. We walked from our parking spot to the game - past many of the vendors.....one of the stands were selling "Indians - 2007 AL Champs!" T-shirts for $20. I shook my head at that as we walked by . Oh dear.  The city needs to stop any future illegal copyright infringement gooches from now on.

The pitching matchup was C C Sabathia for the good guys and Josh Beckett for the Red Sox. Someone in the front office felt extremely cocky - too cocky - and scheduled a female singer for the National Anthem. The singer was Danielle Peck - Josh's ex-girlfriend.

Oh yeah, no tempting fate there.

I don't remember too much about the game - it was 1-1 after 1, and Boston scored in the 3rd to make it 2-1. Beckett was solid - I never really felt like we had any chance to break through with more runs. C C pitched ok, but fell apart in the 7th; Boston scored 2 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th to win, 7-1. The series would go back to Boston.

Of course, as you know, Boston won games 6 and 7 at home to win the ALCS....... and, to rub even more salt in the wounds, they swept the inferior Rockies in the World Series. If we had beaten the Red Sox in either game 5, 6 or 7, I have to believe we would have been doing the sweeping in the Series.

( For you Tribe fans out there - or those that get pissed off at Boston dominance - we can look back at this video fondly from October 3, 1995. Come for the Tony Pena highlights, stay for the Bob Costas shrieking!)

On to the games:

Jax 27, Ind 20. I mentioned that Jax desperate home dog in week 3. I meant week 4. Ha! What a boring game plan they had last week - they HAVE to open it up this week vs. the depleted Colts secondary.

Chi 24, Det 20. Detroit is not good enough to be favored on the road. They still seem to have a penchant for blowing winnable games.

Car 30, Atl 27. I don't think Carolina's defense is all that good this year - so Atlanta will score; Carolina will be able to match them and eke this one out.

Bal 24, Oak 17. Bal's specialty is to play close to the vest, not make mistakes, and let the other team beat themselves. This should work against a young Oakland team on the road.

Hou 20, Ten 13. I know Watt is out, but Houston has had 10 days to prepare for this game. They have the superior talent and should win a low scoring game.

NE 23, Buf 20. No idea what tricks Belicheck will pull out of his hat for this one.

NYJ 20, Sea 16. the jets have a formidable defensive line - and I think they will dominate the Seattle weakness- their O line. Obviously, this is dependent on Fitzpatrick not throwing 6 interceptions again.....

TB 27, Den 23. Just a hunch. I really don't think Simien is all that elite. He beat a Carolina defense that took a step down from last year, struggled to move the ball vs. the Colts and ....well, I'll give him lots of credit for the Bengals road win. Could be a let down.

Az 27, LA 16. Talk about a let down - how did the Rams score 37? I can't see the Cardinals giving up half that much here.

SD 30, NO 24. No idea. Anything can happen in this game. I'm sure this will be a 6-3 barnburner given the horrid defenses on both sides.

SF 24, Dal 20. Who, exactly, have the Cowboys played? The Giants - not known for their secondary strength...the Redskins (ditto), and the Bears who are a mess. Who gave them this easy schedule?

Pit 30, KC 20. I have to believe Ben will break out here with Bell back, coming off a loss. KC only scored 24 points last week with 8 turnovers given to them. That's 1999-Browns like.

Min 23, NYG 20. Not sure what will happen here. I think the Vikes are due for a letdown....after 3 tough games, the last 2 vs. elite teams.

Best bets: 11 games. Last week: 3-10-1; overall: 18-20-2.
Jax +2
Chi +3
Car/Atl over 49
Bal -3.5
Ten/Hou under 43.5
Buf +6.5
NYJ +1.5
TB +3
Den/TB over 43
SF +1.5
Pit -3.5

My supercontest picks: Last week: 1-4; overall: 7-8
NYJ +2.5
Pit -5.5
SF +2.5
Chi +3
Jax +2.5

Combined Supercontest entry: Last week: 1-4; overall: 8-7
Jax +2.5
NYJ +2.5
Arz -8
Pit -5.5
NYG +4.5

Sep 25, 2016

NFL Week 3: November 4, 2001

I know the Browns will be bad this year - but it's good to see they will be providing episodes of lost leads and choking down the stretch, just like every year! I want to thank many of you for texting me in the 1st quarter - when the Browns were up 20-0 and then 20-2 - asking me how the Browns will blow it. It's the first quarter! There's plenty of time for a slow, gradual descent into defeat with no real dramatic moments ..... and that's what came to pass.

One of you texters said: "Ha! This loss has to be in the top 10 of Browns defeats!" Um, no. It's not even in the top 20 for this decade. When you lose games at the buzzer on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown (in prime time, no less), these standard 1 pm blown leads are just like the UTH dealer hitting an inside straight. You know it's coming, you are just preparing for the disappointment for 2 hours until the end.

Now, for truly crushing regular season losses, you can't really beat a 10 month period from 2001-2002. We will be talking about 3 separate games from that span on the blog this year. The coach for those years was Butch Davis - still widely believed as the best game coach the Browns have had since the return. He is also the last coach to take us to the playoffs.

2001 was the third year after the re-birth; recall our record for 99-00 combined was 5-27. There wasn't much in the cupboard for Butch to work with. Nonetheless, he got us off to a great start in 2001 and we were 4-2 heading to a game in Chicago against the Bears. The Bears had an even better start and were 5-1. This game was a late start (4:15) and I think Jim Nantz was on the call.

I missed most of the game because we were at our regular small group for church; I do remember exactly whose house we were at. I think we left around 6, 6:15 pm (our group were all families with infants, so young Freddie - 9 months old at the time - had to get home); by then it was the 3rd quarter and the Browns had gotten out to a 14-7 lead. (For those of you keeping track, Timmy was our QB for this game). Late 3rd quarter, Timmy hit Kevin Johnson for a 55 yard TD and we had a 21-7 lead.

I watched the 4th quarter at my house; our defense was holding the Bears. (Shane Matthews was the Bears' QB). The Bears started a late drive at their own 20 with 2:00 left; they went on a 9 play, 80 yard drive that ended up in a TD with :28 remaining to make it 21-14.

To be completely honest, I never chalked this game up as a win while it was going on. The CBS crew cut to the sidelines to show the Browns celebrating and packing the equipment up in the cases.

Of course, you all can guess what happened next. Onside kick - recovered by the Bears; 2 plays later they are at the Browns' 34 with :08 left; Matthews then throws a long pass into the end zone where it is batted and caught by James Allen. Touchdown. Tie game. 14 points in 30 seconds to tie.

Bears win the toss in overtime; we stop them! We get the ball back at our 20; 3 plays later Couch throws a pick 6 to Mike Brown and we lose, 27-21. This was the second straight week that Mike Browns of the Bears ended the game with a pick 6. The Bears ended up that year 13-3 (does anyone remember that???)

Freddie was sleeping nicely in his swing in the TV room when this all happened; of course there were lots of profanities yelled; he woke up and started crying; Janice came downstairs to find Freddie in his swing crying and Eric laying in front of the TV crying as well. Instead of a 5-2 start, we were now 4-3 and the momentum of the season turned.

So when you have losses like that, plain old vanilla losses like last week don't hurt anymore.

On to the games:

Az 23, Buf 21. This game looks too easy, and I'm running away from it. There should be no way the Bills hang with them - but (as we always see), home teams that are 0-2 are always dangerous. This is Rex's last chance for a good coahcing game.

Car 23, Min 20. How much more impressive can the Vikings defense look? And I am not completely sold that Carolina is back - they let up a lot of points & yards to the 49ers last week.

Cin 23, Den 13. Cincinnati will try to establish the run - eating the clock; and I think the Cincy D will control Simien. If the Colts D can handle the Broncos' offense, then I think the Bengals will be fine.

GB 31, Det 20. Yes, I can't help myself. The Green Bay trap. Home opener for the Packers, and the Lions lack mental toughness (I've seen it in both games).

Jax 27, Bal 17. Can we stop and understand what the Ravens have done? They only scored 13 vs. the Bills and they let us take a 3 touchdown lead. Their secondary is slow and the Jags will take advantage.

NYG 23, Was 17. The Giants have a classic bend-but-don't-break D to let up a lot of yards, but will force Cousins to make decisions in the red zone - and we know that's not his strength.

Oak 24, Ten 20. I think Tennessee will control the tempo here, establishing the run game first  - game will be at their pace, but they just don't have enough offensive weapons.

Sea 20, SF 17. The 49ers defensive line is decent (see teh Rams game) and they should get plenty of pressure against Wilson and the horrid Seahawks line. If Gabbert can limit the mistakes (big if), the Niners have a chance to actually win this.

TB 31, LA 13. I'm sorry, I think the Rams are worse than the Browns. They don't have a passing game yet, and if therir D line can be netrualize, their secondary is not good. Tampa should put up lots of points.

Ind 23, SD 20. Desperate 0-2 team at home; this is purely a "spot" play, as I think SD will have a let down here.

KC 27, NYJ 20. I think the KC pass rush- one thing they do well - will be able to disrupt the Jets' offense. I see the Chiefs trying more of a passing game here to get around the strong Jets' run D.

Pit 28, Phi 20. Let's not crown the Eagles just yet. They beat the Browns and Bears. I know Wentz looked good, but those are teams without much of a pass rush. I expect the Steelers to confuse Wentz.

Dal 24, Chi 23. this line should not be a touchdown. Period. I have faith in Brian Hoyer to keep this close, especially against a weak Dallas D.

NO 34, Atl 20. The Saints could really be 2-0; the emotion will play a big part of the game here for the Saints.....oh, who cares. No one will be watching this game. Not even people in New Orleans. They'll watch and see the Mark Cuban/Gennifer Flowers antics in the first row of the debate.

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 5-7; overall: 15-10-1
Min +7
Cin -3.5
Den/Cin under 42.5
GB -7
Jax +1
NYG -3
Was/NYG under 46
SF +10
TB -4.5
(SD/Ind under 51.5)
KC -3
Pit -3.5
Chi +6.5
NO -2.5

Eric's Supercontest picks: Last week: 3-2; overall: 6-4
Jax pk
NO -3
KC -3
Chi +7.5
SF +9.5

Team Supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 7-3
NYJ +3
Jax pk
Oak +1.5
NO -3
SF +9.5

Sep 18, 2016

NFL Week 2: January 4, 1986

As we continue our look back at painful Cleveland losses, we move forward exactly 5 years to the day from Red Right 88 to this game, which has largely been forgotten in Cleveland lore - the 1985 NFL playoff game vs. Miami.

You could see the foundation starting to be built with the Browns around this time. In the 1984 season, the Browns fired their head coach, Sam Rutigliano, in mid-season and promoted a coordinator to take over the reins for the last 8 games in '84. That new coach, of course, was Marty. He took a team that started 1-7 in '84 and finished the last 8 games at 4-4.

We did need a quarterback, however, Paul McDonald was just not going to cut it. So we "finagled" the supplemental draft (there were some controversial maneuverings done) to land Bernie as the #1 pick in the supplemental.  He was immediately named our starting quarterback.

The '85 season was - let's face it - mediocre, as the team grew both offensively and defensively. this is the year that Byner and Mack broke on to the scene with their 1,000 yard rushing seasons. A positive was that we were playing in the AFC Central, which proved to be horrible that year. The Steelers were in transition and getting old after their Super Bowl era; the Bengals were also old after their first Super Bowl 3 years earlier, and Houston just plain sucked. It was anybody's division to win; the Browns went 4-2 in the division and finished 8-8, one game above Pitt and Cincy and we won the division. At the time, it was the worst record for a playoff qualifier ever. (Pro Football Outsiders called this team one of the worst ever in history to make the playoffs.) The media hated us, as the darling Broncos and their gap-toothed idiot quarterback went 11-5 and missed the playoffs, but we made it.

As a division winner, we actually got a bye and the divisional playoff game was in Miami - Miami went 12-4; this was the height of the Dolphins with Marino , Clayton, Duper, etc. This was the team that gave the Bears their only loss of 1985. And we had to go into Miami and play them.

I remember having an indoor soccer game that afternoon at the Hereford High School old gym - to you Marylanders, is the old gym still standing now? That gym was horrible even in the 80s. (As an aside, I have plenty of memories from that old gym - which is the location for me breaking an arm playing dodgeball in high school - yes, I was a great athlete. Oh - and can't forget our great PE teacher who told me that my broken arm was nothing - "get back in there"...... I'll give you all two guesses on who that teacher was. God, I hated PE at Hereford.)

Anyway, I remember Dad waiting for me after the soccer game; I went over and asked him what the score was.

"It's 21-3...."

Oh...well, I never expected to beat Miami, so that's ok.

"No, the Browns are winning!"

Our running attack ran wild against the Miami defense, and Byner had a 66 yard run early in the 3rd to make it 21-3. Our defense was somehow stopping the Dolphins' passing attack. We rushed home, listening to the radio on the way home and turning on the TV.

I don't have to tell you how this ended. As soon as I started following the game, the Dolphins came to life; scoring two touchdowns in the 3rd to make it 21-17; our offense sputtered as they started stopping the run. The Dolphins scored with about 4 minutes left to take a 24-21 lead; we couldn't get in position to kick a game tying field goal and that was the final score.

At the time, it was the second-greatest comeback in NFL playoff history (behind an obscure 1957 game between Detroit and San Fran). Thank God the 1993 Bills-Oilers game completely obliterated the record book on playoff comebacks shortly after. The game was painful at the time - since we were up 18 - but in my heart, I knew we were the inferior team so it wasn't that big of a deal. I may have said something like .. "this team will only get better, and we will get back to the playoffs many more times and have big wins........right? Right???"

Looking back in retrospect, however, this was a missed chance. On the other side of the bracket, the wild card Patriots went into Oakland and won; that means New England went to Miami for the AFC Championship that year. However - if we would have held on to beat Miami, the Browns - a division winner at 8-8 - would have hosted the Patriots in the AFC Championship. That would have generated all time low ratings for NBC.

(And what if we would have beat the Patriots? We would have faced the '85 bears in the Super Bowl. The 8-8 Browns vs. the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears. Line on that game? 26.5 ?)

Anyway, on to the games; I promise not to do these flashbacks in chronological order.......

Ten 28, Det 27. I think Minnesota's defense is excellent, which explains how Tennessee was shut down last week. And Detroit benefitted from a horrid Indy secondary.

NO 31, NYG 27. If you can only score 20 points against the Cowboys, maybe the offense is not ready to light it up. The Saints' offense is exquisite.

Car 20, SF 13. I just have a feeling that Cam is not 100% and they are not exactly sure what they want to do on offense. I don't see them lighting up the field with points just yet - which means it should be a relatively close game.

Pit 23, Cin 20. Oh God, if the Steelers win, I'll be sick. On the other hand, if the Bengals win, then work will be hell for a few days......

NE 24, Mia 17.  I am impressed with Miami's D, yes. But I'm sure Belicheck is hearing all this "Miami owns the Patriots" talk and will do enough to get a win here.

Was 31, Dal 24. So many missed, wide open receivers on Monday night for the Skins. I think they will cash in possessions for TDs instead of FGs and we will have a shootout.

Hou 23, KC 16. A good defense like Houston should be able to shut down a run-first offense like KC. I know I am banking on Osweiler here; I think he will come through at home.

Sea 20, LA 16.  This screams of a trap game. Seattle looked awful against a good D line last week - and I think that's the only strength of the Rams. But can LA even score 10 points?

Az 30, TB 24.  It would not surprise me if the Bucs won here, but the desperation of the Cardinals should pull them through. They sleepwalked through the Pats game; they need to understand they have to do more than just show up.

Oak 33, Atl 20. I have put my order in for a Fathead of Derek Carr for my basement.....I like this offense, at home vs. a Falcons team that has a lot of questions on defense.

Jax 24, SD 23. This game could go either way. I should realize that there will be no after effects of the Chargers' blown loss to the Chiefs, but that Allen injury really hurts their O.

Den 27, Ind 20. Can Trevor Simien take advantage of the horrible Indy secondary? I'm saying no - they will win, but it won't be the blowout everyone expects.

GB 20, Min 19. I just don't think the Vikes have enough offense yet to hang with Green Bay.

Chi 24, Phi 13. Oh, you beat the Browns in week 1? Great job! That means nothing. Carson Wentz will fall back to earth here, as I think John Fox will have more in store for him than the putrid Browns D.

Best bets: 12 of them. Last week: 10-3-1
Ten +6
Ten/Det over 47.5
NO +4
SF +13
SF/Car under 45
Was -3
Dal/Was over 45.5
Hou -2.5
KC/Hou under 43
Oak -4.5
Jax +3
Chi -3

Eric's supercontest bets: Last week: 3-2
NO +4.5
Hou -3
Ten +6
Chi -3.5
Oak -5

Combined Supercontest entry: Last week: 3-2
NO +4.5
Hou -3
SD -3
Az -7
Chi -3.5

Sep 11, 2016

NFL Week 1: January 4, 1981

Welcome back! It's time for week 1 of the NFL season and the weekly themed picks! I struggled to come up with a theme this year for the picks - I was close to giving you 17 small biographies of mediocre 1980s golfers such as Wayne Levi and Bob Gilder - until Layup hit upon an idea. Why not celebrate the Cavs victory ending the Cleveland curse?

Good idea - but my concern was - were there enough painful losses in my memory to support 17 weeks? I really had to work to come up with only 17...I had about 94 to choose from....

Before this summer, I was thinking the closest I would ever get to a pro championship would be the 1983 Orioles...that was the first / second year we moved to Baltimore, and our social studies teacher had the magic # listed every day in the fall and would make a big deal of changing it in front of the class. But then I fell out of love with the Orioles and embraced my Cleveland roots....and I thought I was destined to never see a victory parade.

Had a great time this summer at the parade; I took Freddie up, spent the day with Kermit; met Steve at work, and even caught a Tribe game. It really was a great experience.....something that had never occurred in the city for 52 years, and to be a part of it when it finally happened was amazing.

I will freely admit, the Cavs fall 3rd in my personal sports pecking order. If I had my choice on which team I would want to have a championship, my personal order is this - with clear separation between the 3 teams:

1. Browns
2. Indians
3. Cavaliers

(and, if we expand to other teams I root for:
4. Blue Jackets
5. Capitals
6. U of Maryland
7. Sacramento Kings
8. Ohio State....as a taxpayer of Ohio, I think I am legally required to root for the Buckeyes )

Anyway- I'm not complaining. I finally got my wish of a championship and a downtown parade. However, a parade in June under 85 degree sunny skies is a nice party; can you imagine 1.5 million people downtown in February in a snowstorm if, somehow, this Browns leadership brings home a title in 3-5 years?????)

Now on to the catharsis....our first painful sports memory brings us to Lansing, Michigan, and a random bowling alley on the east side of town. I was one week away from turning 9 at the time. The Browns 1980 season was a magical one; the team was called the Kardiac Kids for their ability to pull out last minute wins (and a spectacular last minute loss on a Hail Mary to Minnesota, where Ahmad Rashad caught a 50 yard pass to win at the buzzer).

This team was special; the brown jerseys and the orange pants were classic. Brian Sipe was our QB; Ozzie was in his prime, and we had the Pruitts as our running back. Lyle Alzado anchored the defense. We finished 11-5 and won the division (for the first time in 6 years, I think). The division win gave us a bye and a first round home playoff game against Oakland. It was a freezing day, with the actual temperature being 4 degrees.

I was in 3rd grade at the time, and just starting to get into sports; there was a pencil machine at our school that spit out pencils for 5 cents, and it had all 28 teams on it. I really wanted the Browns pencil...but kept getting the damn Tampa Bay one.  A lot of my friends were Lions fans, and the Lions were doing good with Eric Hipple (remember him?) as QB. My first jersey that I remember was a Sipe jersey I wore to school.

Lansing was an interesting city for sports at that time; the local hero was a basketball star at Michigan St. named Earvin Johnson; he somehow sponsored a local dairy store named Quality Dairy. I think he just graduated and got drafted by the Lakers, so this was all legal. I remember we had 5-8 Magic Johnson Quality Dairy frisbees around the house. (there's no truth to the rumor that I starred in this 1980 commercial......)

Anyway, all of us went bowling that day and we watched the game at the bowling alley. The game went back and forth; our kicking game was not good; Cockroft (our K) missed 2 field goals and we had an extra point blocked. We were down 14-12 with under a minute remaining, and we were driving - we were at the Raiders 13 with 49 seconds left.

Now what to do? Coach Rutligiano called for Sipe to pass the ball to the left corner of the end zone. And this is a quote: "If he's not open, throw it into Lake Erie". Sipe took the snap, looked left - saw Ozzie in the endzone, and threw it---- problem is, the throw wasn't good and Ozzie was well covered. Mike Haynes intercepted it and the Raiders ran out the clock.

I was devastated. I could not believe the Browns actually lost. the announcers told me they pulled out games at the last minute all season - and I thought it was certain to happen again! Why did he throw it? Why not kick a field goal? It is the first time I remember crying while watching a sporting event.

So many factors went into the decision for this play...the weather was the big one, of course; Cockroft said later he was not at 100% and a 30 yard field goal was no sure thing at that time. There's a lot of variables to consider; this play was discussed at length in a undergraduate statistics class I had at Case. The question was - given the background and situation, what play gave the highest expected value - the pass, a run or a kneel down for a field goal? With the assumptions made, it was clear that the pass was the highest expected value play call at the time.

(This was my first exposure to being on the "right side", but not the winning side. That stats class gave me a lot of good background for future sports gambling.....)
(Now I am going to have to waste time to find that textbook in the basement).

Anyway....this play/season was the start of my painful Cleveland experiences. Every fan over the age of 40 or so knows what Red Right 88 is - the name of that pass to the left side of the end zone.

(Oh - where was Layup? Not sure...but I do remember driving back from the bowling alley a few times trying to help him count to 20....he always managed to skip 13 or 15 ......)

On to the week 1 games!

TB 31, Atl 24.  I am convinced Winston will make the leap this year and Tampa will be decent. Mike Smith will be motivated to beat his former team. What other weapons do the Falcons have besides Jones?

Bal 20, Buf 16.   A healthy Baltimore team should be back to an 8-8, 9-7 team and have enough to beat the overrated Bills. I just don't think Buffalo is that good.

Hou 24, Chi 17. Not convinced of Osweiler, but the D should handle the Bears - who already have injury problems on the line.

GB 34, Jax 20. The Packers are healthy - and when they are, their offense is almost unstoppable. I can't see the Jags holding them under 30 - and I don't see them getting to 30 with Bortles just yet.

KC 23, SD 20. A lot closer than people expect. I think the Chargers will move the ball and keep it close, and I'm not convinced the Chiefs can blow them out right now with the players they have missing on D.

NO 31, Oak 28. Yes, I know, a popular pick for a shootout - which means this will be a 14-13 final. God bless David Carr!

NYJ 20, Cin 16. I have faith that Revis can contain A J Green --- and then what does Cincinnati have? The Jets have a solid run D, Eifert is out....so how is Cincinnati going to move the ball? a good matchup here for the Jets.

Min 20, Ten 13. Boy, a leap of faith here on this one. I think the Vikings will rally and do just enough to win.

Sea 27, Mia 14. Maybe this is a bit lazy.....I am concerned about the Sea OL handling Miami, but I can't see Miami movign the ball all that much.

NYG 28, Dal 23. You have a rookie QB and a rookie RB starting for Dallas? I'm sorry, I know Zeke may be good - but we have no idea how Prescott looks. None. Don't tell me "oh, he was great in the preseason!" No. I've seen so many "good" performances in my preseasons and none panned out. The Giants should figure our some defensive scheme to force mistakes.

Det 28, Ind 20. The Lions match up well with the Colts - good secondary - and they have fixed their OL a bit and should be able to move the ball.

Az 31, NE 20. If Belicheck can win this game,..........it will be interesting to see how well Jimmy can do against a good D.

Was 27, Pit 24. A good matchup for the Skins. They will rely heavily on the pass, which is the Steelers' weakness; Defensively, they can manage Pit's run game and hope Norman can contain Brown.

SF 19, LA 16. Am I missing something here? I think LA can go 4-12 or worse.

Best bets: 14 of them.
TB +2.5
Buf/Bal under 44.5
GB -4.5
SD +6.5
Oak/NO over 52
NYJ +1.5
Min -2.5
Min/Ten under 40
NYG pk
Det +3.5
NE/Arz over 44
Was +3
SF +2.5
LA/SF under 42.5

My personal supercontest picks:
Det +3.5
SF +2.5
TB +2.5
Was +3
NYG -1.5

We are putting in a join entry into the real Supercontest. Here is the joint entry:
Car -3 (Loss....thanks, Wiz)
Bal -3
Atl -2.5
Det +3.5
SF +2.5

Sep 10, 2016

It's time for NFL 2016!

Who's ready for week 1? I am starting to get excited...I know this year will be a long one for the Browns, but I'm ready to watch RG3 and Josh Gordon (with Corey Coleman) put on some offensive fireworks.

(Oh, we have to play defense too?)

Before we get started on the picks, let's do some housekeeping to see our record for our world-renown NFL weekly picks.....

For the last 3 years, here are the results:

2013: 127-122-6
2014: 109-127-4  (may have been slightly distracted with a move across the world)
2015: 123-100-8

Overall 9 year record:  1234-1143-69, a record of 51.9%...just shy of the magical 52.3% needed.

For the supercontest:

2013: 43-38-4
2014: 43-41-1
2015: 44-40-1

Overall 5 year record: 211-202-12, 51.1% . Not great....

Even though we are sharing a supercontest entry this year, I will post my 5 picks for comparison. Would love to set a small goal and break 45 points this year.

Now - to the fun! Our annual look back on network opening segments for NFL games. Let's go back to recent history, for one of the first years that FOX covered the NFL...here's an open from 1996 with the immortal Dick Stockton. Please remember: Dick looks old in 1996 - and he is doing a play by play game this weekend in 2016!!! Got to love the intern that thought the jigsaw puzzle symbolism would work.


Shifting to CBS...I loved this theme. I still think the late-90s CBS theme is the best. These opens were so cheesy.....a 1999 open from a Ravens game satirizing the Blair Witch project. How do you explain this to kids? I'll let you be surpirsed on the play by play announcer. Yes, we miss him.


And now for one of the worst NFL open themes in my life...the early 90s music for NBC. How vanilla and boring. This was the last playoff game I truly thought we could win. What a quarterback battle!


Aug 17, 2016

Vegas 2016, Part 4

Saturday, March 12

Well, this is a first - I think I was the second or third person to make it downstairs to the casino floor that morning. I'm not sure why I was "late" (for me) in getting to the floor that morning. As you know, I'm usually there by 5, 5:30 at the latest. I don't think I went down until about 7 - horrors! I was probably putting in my Saturday conference tournament picks for that damn pool and/or finalizing the parlays for the day.

I first headed to - where else? - the UTH table - but found no room at the inn. Layup and Wiz were there, playing, and were not in a happy mood. There were two other people at the table: one, a regular American from Lexington with a blue UK shirt on; he seemed to have made friends with Wiz and Layup at the table - but all three were annoyed with the second guy there.

This second guy was probably a Brit, wearing a sportcoat and clearly was still partying from night before. He was chain smoking and (I recall) had at least 3 glasses of alcohol at the table. Apparently, he wasn't budging from the table as he was winning, but was so obnoxious. I'll let Wiz and Layup explain in the comments why he was considered an ass - but that's the worst kind of gambler to gable with - an asshole who wins. An ass who loses is fine, because you know the pain is temporary as he's bound to leave soon. But a mean winner? Ugh.

I found no reason to stay there so I went over to play craps with a few strangers; the Bailey's and cocoa kept coming as I chased the Horn High ace Deuce, hard 4s and 10s, and the all small.. They never showed up, and I got killed. By then it was time for my morning massage.

After the spa trip, it was about 10:30 am on Saturday, and the sports day was in full swing! There was college B ball, golf, NBA, NHL - so enough sports to fill up the entire wall of the Mirage sportsbook. But - in one little monitor at the bottom center, I was watching FS2. Yes sir - it's FA Cup action, yo! Quarterfinals between Chelsea and my adopted Everton team! I even had on my Everton shirt.....

The book was packed, and there was literally no one else in the room watching soccer, let alone vocally rooting for a team. That means I could be as obnoxious as I wanted during the game - no one would have a clue what I was yelling at. Lukaku scored twice in the second half - both occured when the main game in the book, Michigan-Purdue, was in commercial, so everyone heard my shrieking - as Everton pulled the upset, 2-0. Everyone won a +170 bet on them.

What was next? A gambling experience that is a 180-degree turn from a thrilling soccer win; 30 minutes of Pai Gow! And not just any Pai Gow experience; three of us sat down to play and we found out we had a break in dealer. It was a complete farce; we literally played 1 hand every 5 minutes. I couldn't take it any more and got up....

Of course, UTH was still packed (and I think the ass was still there); by then, everyone else had joined us on the floor looking to gamble; 4 of us (Don, Mike, Mike and I) ended up at an empty $25 blackjack table. We had a good time; cards were decent (but never great), as we played for over 3 hours and I ended up down $10. However - I was shocked at the amount of shuffling that occured. We would have 5 or 6 people at the table, and I am pretty sure that we had a shuffle every 8-9 hands. I think we played with a 6 deck shoe - that's the only explanation, right? I can't ever recall a shoe being penetrated that "short" before a shuffle. Did I look like a counter? (Maybe it was Don....he has that look about him)

Parlay update...Don had the first winner of the day with Purdue in the Big 10 semis; my pick of Ark-Little Rock came home a winner; Mike A picked the Raptors, and they won. Wiz had Tx A&M - who won their SEC Semi. To keep the streak alive, all Mike D needed was to have Villanova win the Big east over Seton Hall. A layup, right?

(Not sure where Layup, Wiz and Leland went in the afternoon - I don't think there was an off-campus field trip, but you never know....)

Dinner was at Rose Rabbit Lie at the Cosmo - which was great. What a find, Leland. However, the excitement during this trip happened before dinner as we were walking through the Cosmo casino...we passed by the high limit area, and saw the Holy Grail....a UTH table in the high limit area!!!! It was reserved (no one was playing) but we had to ask the pit boss ....what action is needed to reserve a UTH table?

The answer was - $100,000 action per hour. (is that right???- ed. ) We quickly started doing the match. 6 people at a table, 40 hands/hour - meaning 240 total hands - --- this means action of $400 per hand is needed. That's about a $75-$100 limit table...........hmmmmmm.......well gentlemen, we now have our goals.

After dinner, we came back to the Mirage for the evening session; I think Leland, Mike A and I ended up at the craps table. Again, I was throwing out the $5 chips on the Horn High Ace Deuce and the All small. Leland and Mike A started playing the all small but not the horn.

At one point, Mike rolled - hit a point, and then he rolled again. He rolled a 2....loser on the line, but a winner for me. I pressed the Horn High. Next - a 12. YES! I said as the dealer (again) took the money from the line. Finally, a third roll - 3.....I started cheering loudly and did a little dance. $15 Horn High Ace Deuce - and the 3 came up!

Mike was a bit dumbfounded. "Why are you cheering? We lost again on the pass line. Did we win the all small with that?"

I think this is my direct quote: "No - all that's important, Mike, is that I make money. Just keep rolling like that and make me money!". The table got a bit frosty with my comment....

The night ended at the UTH table with a stoic Ruth who killed all of us with bad hands. I think many in the group finally turned against her.

Sunday, March 13

By 6:00 am this morning, both Layup and Wiz had left - Layup heading to Asia for a 2 week business trip immediately after leaving the Mirage. He said his business class flight was the perfect way to recover.  Mike, Mike and Don had an earlier flight to Cincinnati, so they were up and gone by 7.

That left Leland and I; I started the morning at the craps table where some kid hit 3 hard 4's in a row - and was just the "9" away from the all or nothing. Leland joined for a bit; we had the breakfast buffet then back for one last unsuccessful run at craps.

I took Leland to the airport in Layup's rental - I agreed to return it - and on the ride over, we talked about the 2016 presidential election. I tried to convey to him how Trump was attractive to many in middle America. (At this point, Trump was the favorite - but hadn't locked down - the Republican nomination). I think we agreed that it was sad how fractured America had become; we don't socialize with people outside our class/societal status much any more. It was a deep conversation - something that was more appropriate for a Monday dinner rather than a final discussion after a 100 hour gambling session.

I dropped Leland off at the terminal, then tried to find where the rental car return was for McCarran airport. Holy shit - it seemed to be in Tucson. Lugging my clubs all over that damn garage, on the overcrowded shuttle bus and then in the 30 minute check in line for Delta was a sour end to another great trip.

Jul 24, 2016

Vegas 2016, Part 3

Friday, March 11

I think I was able to sleep in till about 5 or so this morning. The body was starting to hurt. Nevertheless, headed down to the tables for my customary Baileys and coffee and an empty UTH table - and a nice winning session to start the day.

Wiz set up another round of golf - today was TPC Summerlin, a course we had not played before. We were going to leave around 8:30 in order to get there for our 10:00 am tee time. While we were packing up - the sports news of the year broke! The Browns had finally cut Johnny Manziel! The timing was no real surprise - since Wednesday March 9 was the first day teams could cut people and not have them impact the salary cap for 2016. We all expected the cut as we arrived on Wednesday - which meant we may have had a chance to see a drunk Johnny in the Mirage over the weekend - but it was not to be.

We got to the course around 9:15 or so.....at the course, we were warming up (and it was clear my swing stayed at the Mirage...); the coffee kicked in and I had to go to the restroom. Ah, what better time to check with some of the early scores? Yes, some games have tipped off already.....

oh crap.....oh no......

I don't think many of you knew what was going on. As you know, I love complex, under the radar sports pools. Anyone can participate in an NCAA tournament pool, but it takes a special kind of degenerate to play in (and lead) an NIT pool. That's one example. Another example is thefabulous suicide pool that Wiz got me in this year. I lasted until the Friday of the Sweet 16. Not bad!

Well, I was in a 10 day conference tournament pool this year. (I think this was the second year that I was in it.). I found it from some one I followed on twitter. Starting on the Friday before the Vegas trip, you have to pick 1) conference tourney winners and then 2) winners for each game each day. It was $100 entry and there were about 120 people in it. Not bad!

I got off to a good start in this pool - for instance, I picked UNC-Wilmington to win the Colonial before it started; that's multiple bonus points. I put my picks in early Thursday morning - and I was in around 15th place. Not bad.

And as I sat on the toilet at TPC Summerlin, I realized - I forgot to put in my picks for the Friday games in this pool.

What's the big deal? Oh, just that Friday is the day with the 2nd most amount of games. The deadline was 11:40 eastern - 8:40 pacific - and we were 30 minutes past that. I would get a 0 for the day.

Well, that's $100 wasted. I wonder what place I was in after Thursday? I checked....that was a mistake. Somehow, I was in 2nd place in the pool going into today. And I forgot my picks.

That's when I started to feel nauseous. How did you forget? That's like $2000-3000 you had a chance at...you idiot. I emerged from the bathroom with an ashen face, and I think it seriously took me 3-4 holes (and a Rum and OJ, thanks to Gavin) to snap me out of it.

Would I have won the pool? I didn't do the math on it...I don't think I hit any of the conference tournament winners on the weekend (I had Miami for the ACC, Purdue for the Big 10, etc), so I probably would not have won. But......

Anyway - back to the golf. The golf was horrible. I had no swing - and people know what game I have when I have no swing. (Answer - none). I made a tremendous par from one hole by hitting it so far left I was talking to the landscapers from a neighboring house. We saw Sheldon Anderson's mansion - it was huge.

The round took some time; I think we played in over 5 hours. I sent Layup (again, he stayed back for work reasons) a text about the state of my game: "Help! Send golf balls".

Layup immediately responded with his situation: "Help! Send Markers!".

(Oh - sports betting out there? I had Cincinnati over UConn in the AAC quarters; Cinci hit a 3 with 00.8 seconds left in triple OT to win by 3! Right? Wasn't that the final score? )

 We didn't get back to the Mirage until 4:30 or so....( I can't believe we ended up being gone that long). Along the way - Layup sent some more cryptic texts about some strange happenings in the craps pit - along with a picture of a cheeseburger playing craps....(yes, you read that right). Upon arrival back at the Mirage, we had to check this out.

There was something strange going on at the craps pit. All the tables were open - which was strange for a Friday afternoon - but half of them were reserved. There was a big whiteboard by one of the tables titled "Tour De Craps XIV", with several names on it -like a big scoreboard. The felt on the tables were even changed; the three reserved tables had a "Tour De Craps XIV" logo on it.

There were about 4-5 players on the tables; some were normally dressed, but one was dressed in the Mayor McCheese outfit. (I never saw him actually roll, so not sure how he could physically roll with his face being a 3' long hamburger). One person - I think - was dressed up as Captain Morgan. There was one regular guy with a huge notebook taking notes and recording the rolls - seemed like a "statistician".

It was clear this was a private gathering. The tables were roped off and no one else could play; they had the tables in the back (that were against the wall near the cashier) so there was very little foot traffic in that area. But I was fascinated. What kind of play did they need to have to do this? And their own special felt? I glanced at the table at the amounts that were being wagered - there were greens and blacks, but nothing out of the ordinary.

(I did a quick google search to see if I could get any more information on this - this is the only thing I could find - a video from Tour de Craps IV. I do recognize the "King" hat, so this has to be the group.)

Dinner was at BLT that night - lot of talk about who would be the worst team in baseball this year - the Padres or the A's. Also, there was disagreement on whether the Orioles would be for real this year again or slink back to mediocrity .....I can't remember who was arguing what, or what the wagers were.....hope someone wrote those down).

Gambling that night was low-key; I did lose a side bet to Layup when betting my favorite coach - Jim Larranaga - vs. Virginia. Jim let me down this year , failing to cover vs. Va Tech earlier in the trip. I do note that Leland hit an "all small" for me during the night - my first one of the trip; I think he hit the 2 as the last low number for me to win the 35-1 side bet. Thanks!   I also have a 3 hour Pai Gow session - don't think it was with our friend John the dealer - and I lost a total of $25 for that session. Not bad for a Friday night.

The night ended with all of us exhausted and at -where else? - the UTH table. I think Ruth was the dealer. Only 3 of us were playing and the other 3-4 people were leaning on the back of the chairs watching. I got to the table late and sat down with Wiz and Layup; they were talking about a lady that was sitting their earlier. She must have made a bad impression, critiquing Wiz and Layup and (I think) was a chain smoker. Layup summed this players attitude succinctly:
"Not only does she play bad, she's a bad person as well".

That was an apt end for the night, as we all crashed around 12 - 1.