Friday, October 26, 2007

Week 8- Location, Location, Location

They say the three most important things about real estate is location, location and location. The same goes for football, except it is for location of the game, location of the nearest HGH distributor and location of the nearest strip club to the team hotel.

This week in the NFL, location is the top story. We have a game being played in London. We have a game that, at this moment, we have no idea where it is going to be played. And we have no games being played in Oakland or Philadelphia, giving those hard working police departments a well-earned break.

They say home field means a lot to a team. Vegas sports books usually give 3 points to the home team when setting a line. I say “Phooey!” (I often said “Phooey” because I like the sound it makes and because it keeps people from talking to me.) The home teams this year are only covering at a 48% clip. That’s basically a coin flip. So home cookin’ is not better than the breakfast buffet at Cracker Barrel

I think it’d be more fun if the games were held not in the traditional home stadiums, but in locations that will add an extra element of excitement . We fans are tired of the same old, same old. Green Bay is cold in the winter. Miami is hot in the summer. Seattle has loud fans. Atlanta has no fans. We get it. It would be more interesting to have the teams play in a location that better exemplifies the match-up. May not be fun for the players, heck it might even be dangerous, but when as a league or as fans have we ever cared about the well-being of players? (see the players who played before the 1980s)

So this week, along with my picks, I am going to share where I think the games should really be played.

Last week I went 7-7 and 2-2 on my star picks. Overall I am 46-49-7 and 9-13-2 . My picks are in bold. The star indicates I feel so strong about this pick they could play the game in Miami and I would still pick the same way. Oh, they do play football in Miami? Not this year.

Cleveland –3 at St. Louis- Greenland. Most people think Iceland is the more remote location but it is really Greenland, and remote fits the bill for this game.

*Detroit and Chicago –5Hockey Rink. These are two great hockey cities so why not letthe fans enjoy the best of both. Bet Devin Hester still scores a TD…and a hat trick.

*Indianapolis –7 at Carolina – Palm Beach, Florida – With Vinnie starting, what better location than the retirement capital of the US for this game so he can play into front of his neighbors and fellow mah jong players.

NY Giants –9.5 at Miami – Scotland - Not because of my affinity for kilts. But because there would be so many fights in the stands, maybe my Fins would learn a lesson or two about toughness.

Oakland +7.5 at Tennessee – San Quentin Prison - This gives the inmates the opportunity to see what their lives could have been like, and for the Raiders to see what their lives WILL be like.

Philadelphia –1 at Minnesota- Outdoors – I think moving their football games indoors has made Minnesotans soft. I hear Bud Grant is embarrassed to be seen in the city and Fran Tarkenton won’t even be a shill for any companies there.

*Pittsburgh –3.5 at Cincinnati – Cleveland – It’d be just as fascinating to watch the fans as the game. I believe after three straight hours of booing everything that happens on the field, they would all spontaneously combust.

Buffalo +3 at NY Jets – Iran- once the mullahs get a load of the group of Bills and Jets fans that travel over there for the game, they’ll realize we are just crazy enough to attack them and they’ll give up the nukes..and their wallets.

Houston +9.5 at San Diego – San Diego - Okay I have a heart and the people of San Diego need some distraction.

*Jacksonville at Tampa Bay –4Lambeau Field…in January- the frozen tundra would be the perfect weather for these two, sun-baked team. It could be settled by a contest of musical hot seats.

New Orleans –3 at San Francisco – Lancaster County, PA- How appropriate for two of the meccas of alternative lifestyles to play in the heart of Amish country.

Washington +16.5 at New England – atop Mt Everest – the lack of oxygen at this height might slow down the Patriot offense…might.

Green Bay at Denver –3Sahara Desert – everyone talks about how tough it is to play in the frigid weather, well let’s see how tough these cold weather teams are while playing in 130 degree heat. Oh, and make sure you have the sand storm to your back for the fourth quarter.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Week 7- Bad Mood Rising

I hate to get personal but I have been in a foul mood this week. Just had a sour disposition. Walking around with the proverbial stick up my derriere. At first, I thought it was because I am worried that the current housing crisis is likely to lead to an economic recession that could have detrimental worldwide consequences. Then I remembered I don’t know jack about macro economic issues and, therefore, will continue to run up my credit cards bills.

No, the reason for my blue mood has been my lousy record in picking games this year. It has just been awful. Last week, two of my picks lost their starting QBs leaving me begging the sports book director for a do-over. Apparently, there are no do-overs in sports betting, nor is there crying allowed. As I was biting my quivering upper lip, security ushered me out as Tim Rattay was throwing his 17th INT of the game.

Later that evening, as I was standing in line at Vinnie’s Pawn shop hugging a set of sterling silverware passed on from my great-grandparents from the old country, I was thinking about all the other things I hate about sports besides teams not covering. And here is the list I came up before I was handed the $350 cash for was probably $5000 worth of flatware.

Home teams wearing dark jerseys- “Home whites” is how I grew, it was a constant, and let you know immediately who the home team was. The other day the Rockies and D-Backs look liked recreational league softball teams with one wearing red and the other black.

Playoff beards – When they started, it was cool because it made them look tough, now it just makes them look like the squeegee guy off the highway exit. You are all multi-millionaires, but a Gillette!

Timeouts after kickoffs – Nothing drives football fans crazier that a timeout after a score, a kickoff, then another commercial timeout. It’s a wonder a football players breaks into a sweat at the pace they play.

Waving the white towels – Great if you are emulating the Italian army, pretty damn silly looking if you are cheering for your team.

Late October baseball – for a sport that plays 90% of its games in warm weather, to determine its champion in below freezing conditions is just plain dumb. Next year, hockey will play their championship on a lake in the Florida Everglades.

Baseball managers wearing uniforms – who are they fooling. Are we to believe Joe Torre is going to pick up a bat and pinch hit for A-Rod (not a terrible idea with runners in scoring position in the playoffs).

Note- Although it would be funny to see football coaches in full pads roaming the sidelines. But not so funny to see Stan Van Gundy in basketball shorts.

Soccer players faking injuries – this is the single biggest reason the US will never win a World Cup. No championship is worth having if you have to make yourself look like a pansy to win it.

The coach calling time out before a field goal attempt – this latest craze just seems unfair. It’s like an attorney use an obscure objection to get his triple-murder client off. Okay, that might have been too strong, how about double-murderer.

Last week I went 5-7-1 and 1-2 on my star picks. Overall I am 39-42-7 and 7-11-2 on my star picks. This week I dislike all my picks so much, I’ve got nothing to say about them and let the result do the talking for me. So this week, look for a special results posting on Tuesday.

My picks are in bold. The ones with the star are picks I hate so much, I WOULD want my worse enemy to play them.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to watch “Million Dollar Baby” to cheer me up.

Arizona at Washington –7
Atlanta +8.5 at New Orleans
Baltimore at Buffalo +3
Minnesota +9.5 at Dallas
New England –17 at Miami
San Francisco at NY Giants –9.5
Tampa Bay +2 at Detroit
Tennessee at Houston +1.5
*Kansas City at Oakland –2.5
NY Jets +6
at Cincinnati
*Chicago +4.5 at Philadelphia
St. Louis at Seattle –8.5
*Pittsburgh –3.5 at Denver
*Indianapolis –3 at Jacksonville

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Week 6- Honoring the Sabbath

Muslims have Mecca
Jews have the Wailing Wall
Catholics have Vatican City
and football fans have a sport book on Sundays

It’s the holiest place for the followers of footballism, a not yet recognized religious sect in the United States. There is no better place to watch a Sunday worth of football than at a sports book in Las Vegas for the following reasons:
1) Every game going on right in front of you.
2) You can legally bet on the games.
3) Not only to you not have to buy food and drink, you get the drinks for free.
4) You can bet first half lines, and if you lose those, bet second half lines on every game.
5) You are likely to find at least one other person cheering for your team, even if it is for strictly financial reasons.
6) Your football day starts at 10am and doesn’t end until close to 9:00pm. Granted Catholic services run just as long and with an equal amount of booze involved.
7) What else can you do that will allow you to have a great time and give you the chance to leave with more money than you started with?

The hallowed grounds of the sports book give you the opportunity to see things that can only be explained by divine intervention, and I just don’t mean the end of that Cowboys game. I do mean the sights and sounds of your fellow worshipers. It brings together an eclectic mix of people, from all walks of life, all areas of the world, and all ranges of mental stability.

I have seen and heard the following so far this year (I am not making any of these up):

A guy who makes the homeless look clean with three empty Bud bottles and a wad of betting slips in front of him sitting next to who I believe was Thurston Howell III.

A guy standing near the front, looking up at the board, and blabbing away on his cell phone. The clerk, right in front of him, is literally waving his arms and screaming at him to get off the phone. He looks dumbfounded, as security points to the huge sign at the front saying no cell phones.
(Nothing makes you look more like a novice than using a cell phone in a sports books. Do what the rest of us do and use a hand free devise cupped in your hand to mumble to your friends.)

A guy muttered "F$%king Grossman" after his umpteenth pick and three others in unison said “Amen.” Who says this isn’t a church?

An older gentleman upon seeing the USC/Stanford score said “Even though they don’t have that Elway anymore, that Stanford is still pretty tough.” They have not had Elway for going on 25 years.

I saw a mother shout out the betting lines to her 13 year old son who was standing just away from the sports book, and him shouting back his picks. A family that bets together stays together.

There was a young lady who was probably betting for the first time. She was yelling and screaming for her team. Which is fine. But she was getting excited about a kick return to the team’s own 30, …and in the second quarter. Nothing more annoying than misplaced exuberance.

I have seen jerseys, hats, or other items worn for every NFL team, except the Seattle Seahawks. The teams I see the most represented are the Giants, Cowboys and Steelers.

I’ve seen a grown man stand up and stare with tears in his eyes at the huge TV screen as his team loses to a last second, 57 yard field goal
. Actually, I only caught a glimpse of this through a reflection and with water clouded eyes.

Last week, I fell back to below mediocrity and was 6-8 overall and 1-3 on my star picks. For the year, I am 34-35-6 overall and 6-9-2 with my star picks.

My picks are in bold.
*- denotes I really feel so strongly about this pick, I will tip the cashier when I place the bet instead of waiting until I cash the winner.

Cincinnati –3 at Kansas City- the last team with the ball, will throw an interception and have it returned for a TD.

Houston at Jacksonville –6.5 – Houston doesn’t even try for TDs anymore, they just starting kicking when they get inside the 35.

Miami at Cleveland –5 – Cleo Lemon v. Derek Anderson. You’ve got to throw the record books out when these two lock horns.

Minnesota at Chicago –6 – I’ll be the sucker to jump on the Brian Griese Super Bowl bandwagon. Length of trip, one week.

Philadelphia at NY Jets +3- My “forget about it” pick of the week. Both fans are equally obnoxious and bitter. The only just result would be a tie.

St. Louis +9.5 at Baltimore – St. Louis is 1-4 against the spread, the Raven are 0-5. Both these teams have shredded a forest full of parlay cards.

*Tennessee +2.5 at Tampa Bay - Don’t drink pop rocks and coke. Don’t swim within 30 minutes of eating. Do not bet against the Titans when they are getting points.

Washington +3 at Green Bay - Now last week was the Farve we have all grown to love and curse.

*Carolina at Arizona –4 – Vinny Testaverde might start for the Panthers. I don’t think you heard me. How this spread is only 4 points either makes me want to run to the window or scares the hell out of me.

*New England –6 at Dallas – Everyone is praising the Cowboys for overcoming 6 turnovers and winning, but how bad must the Bills be to get 6 turnovers and lose?

Oakland at San Diego –10 – I know, I know. Oakland looks good this year. But this is one of those sucker lines, it suckers you in to betting the Raiders when the Chargers are prime for a rout. And I should know suckers having been one for most of my professional gambling life.

New Orleans at Seattle –6.5 – The Seahawks are the Dorothy of the NFL, there is no place like home for them. Okay, okay, San Fran, you can still be the Dorothys of the league.

New York Giants –3.5 at Atlanta- When the league planned this Monday night games, I am sure they were looking forward to showcasing Joey Harrington. I think there is a 3 to 1 chance baseball getting a better rating than football this night.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Week 5 - Researching the Games

People often ask me to explain my process in picking football games. Can Picasso explain how he paints? Can Einstein explain how he thinks? Can Da Vinci explain how he devises codes? No. And why? Because they are dead. I, on the other hand, am alive and will let you into the mind of a master procrastinator, I mean prognosticator.

I break down each game spending hours conducting research. I study how well each team rushes the ball and defends against the rush. You’ve got to run the ball and stop the run to win in this league. I know this because ESPN always tells me this. I also breakdown the turnover plus/minus; the team’s history against each other and common opponents, injury reports and weather forecasts, among other things. Most touts do this also, but what sets me apart is the extra steps I take that many do not.

I study the horoscopes for each team’s starting lineup, backups, coaches and team trainers. If a team is full of Libras, I shy away from betting them unless they are playing against a Taurus laden team, but only if the head coach is a Leo on the cusp.
I also study the grounds crew on the home team stadium to see how they treat the grass. I research legal filings to see how many players have upcoming court appearances.

And then I go that extra step that no one dares go. I call up the spouse and/or significant other of each team’s starting QB. Who better to get a read on how they are feeling and how they’ll perform. I’ll share a conversation I had leading up to week two of the season:

Me: “Hello, Mrs. Hasselbeck?”
Mrs. H: “Yes, who is this?”
Me: “It’s Blame the Mascot, how are you today?”
Mrs. H: “Oh great thanks. It stopped raining here for two whole days. We are very excited. Who are you again?
Me: “Blame the Mascot, but that’s not important. What is important is, how is Matt feeling?”
Mrs. H: “Oh fine, you are a dear to ask.”
Me: “Nothing unusual in his behavior?”
Mrs H: “Can’t say there is. Oh, there is that one thing, but it’s probably nothing.”
Me: “Nothing is nothing, ma’am. What’s the problem?”
Mrs. H: “Well lately he’s been kind of clumsy. Dropping things for no explicable reason.”
Me: “Example, please.”
Mrs. H: “Oh he’d kill me if he knew I was telling anyone about this. Wait, who are you again?
Me: “Blame the Mascot, we are the most popular sports blog in the history of the world, but whatever you say will only stay between me and you and my readers.”
Mrs. H: “Sounds fair. So take the other day, I asked him to hand me a dish. He turns around to hand it to me, bumps right into me and drops the dish, shattering it on our hard wood kitchen floor.”
Me: “That doesn’t sound like Matt.”
Mrs. H: “ I know. He’s been dropping everything. Books, laundry, the cats, the kids. It has been hell on those hard wood floors. They are so difficult to maintain you know.”
Me: “I know. Oh I know. Well, Mrs. Hasselbeck…”
Mrs H: “Call me Mrs. H”.”
Me: “Mrs. H, thank you for the information and your time. And I hope the weather stays nice.”
Mrs. H: “Me too. I’ve only got one more refill on that Prozac prescription.”
(canned laughter)

So what did I do with the information? I completely ignored it. Who is going to believe a blabbering housewife hopped up on anti-depressants who has hard wood floors in a damp climate like Seattle. And what happened? Her husband was the klutz she said he was, fumbles the game away and blows my pick, costing me the two Lincolns and a Washington I bet on the game.

So now you have some insight into what I call “my craft.” I learned my lesson on Week 2. I will always follow the dictates of my elaborate research system, listen to the spouse and/or significant other of the starting QBs, and, if that fails, do what other touts do and flip a coin.

Last week, I went an impressive 9-5 overall and but a not so impressive 1-2 on my star picks. For the year, I am 28-27-6 overall and 5-6-2 with my star picks.

Here are my picks for Week 5 along with a little bit of what I learned about one of the QBs from my research.

My picks are in bold.
*- denotes I really feel so strongly about this pick, I made sure it won 3 out of 5 coin flips before I picked it.

*Carolina at New Orleans –3 – About David Carr “He doesn’t feel alive unless he is getting sacked.”

Jacksonville at Kansas City +3 – About Brodie Croyle “He thinks of Herm Edwards as a father figure, and think of himself as a altar boy figure.”

Detroit at Washington –3.5 – About Jon Kitna “His trust in God is tempered by the Lord’s lousy play calling.”

*Atlanta +8.5 at Tennessee – About Joey Harrington “He just happens to have the Virginia State police on his T-Mobile My Faves.”

Miami at Houston –5.5 – About Matt Schaub “Enjoyed it much more when he was the QB that should be starting rather than being the QB that is starting.

Seattle +6 at Pittsburgh – About Ben Roethlisberger “Now, won’t even ride a stationary bike without a helmet.”

Cleveland at New England –16 About Tom Brady- spoke to his current girl but I don’t understand Portuguese. Spoke to his ex but I don’t understand what “@#%&ing *&@#er” means.

*Arizona -3.5 at St. Louis – About Matt Leinart “He’s recently contacted USC about a 6th year of eligibility.”

NY Jets at NY Giants –3.5 – About Eli Manning “Wants more dialogue in future commercials with his camera hog brother.”

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis –10 – About Jeff Garcia “When he joined the team, Tampa Bay removed all “s” sounds from their play calls.”

San Diego +1 at Denver – About Jay Cutler “Has been trying to talk Jake Plummer out of retirement.”

Baltimore –3.5 at San Francisco – About Steve McNair “His left ear lobe, the middle toe on his right foot, and the 5th and 7th rib on his left side are the only parts of his body not in pain.”

Chicago at Green Bay –3.5 – About Brett Favre “Meditates before each game by listening to love songs written and performed by John Madden.”

*Dallas -10 at Buffalo – About Tony Romo “He goes into every week thinking “this will be the week T.O. turns against me.’”