Super Bowl Preview: The Game, The Party, The Prop Bets

Depending on your appetite for 5,000-word blog posts, you’re either ecstatic that the Patriots lost in the AFC Championship game or you’re completely bummed. If the Pats had bothered to show up two Sundays ago, you’d be embarking right now on an extra long blog post oozing with Patriot ballwashing. If you’re already jaded from the past 10 days of unnecessary Super Bowl coverage, then you’ve come to the right place. The actual game analysis in this blog post is minimal. Instead I’ve maximized my never-ending thoughts on the perfect Super Bowl Party and the best prop bets to make before kickoff on Sunday afternoon.

The Game

The reason I’m keeping the Baltimore vs San Francisco analysis short isn’t only because I’m still bitter over the Patriots’ season being over (though that’s definitely a big part of it). It’s also because diving deep into the matchups between these two teams is pointless. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the NFL makes no sense. Over a sample size of 256 regular season games, things never make sense or workout how they should. So why would one Super Bowl game follow the blueprint of “most talented team wins.”

Just think of some of the things that happened this year that ran the gamut of unlikely to impossible:

  • Replacement referees took over for three weeks and were even worse than the biggest pessimists predicted.
  • Better yet, replacement refs actually subjectively decided a week 3 game between Green Bay and Seattle, and no one thought to mention during the playoffs that the Packers would have hosted the 49ers in Round 2 had it not been for that debacle in Seattle.
  • Adrian Peterson came back from knee reconstruction surgery only nine months after his injury and put up one of the greatest running back seasons in NFL history on his way to leading a below-average Minnesota team to the playoffs and winning the MVP Award (he’ll win it).
  • The fucking Colts won 11 games and made the playoffs with a rookie QB and a rookie head coach who spent most of the season in the hospital.
  • Just after the halfway point of the season, these three teams were absolute locks for the playoffs: the Giants (6-3), Pittsburgh (6-3), and Chicago (7-1). Not one of them ended up making the postseason.
  • Around that same time, these three teams were far enough out of the playoff race that one of their head coaches even conceded that he was evaluating talent for next season: Washington (3-6), Dallas (3-5), and Cincinnati (3-5). As you probably know, Washington and Cincy made the playoffs, and Dallas just barely missed out.
  • The 5-11 Arizona Cardinals beat the Patriots in New England.
  • Not a single head coach was fired during the regular season.
  • The Ravens lost four of their final five regular season games, limped into the playoffs as the #4 seed and then proceeded to handle Indy, Denver and New England somewhat easily (yes, they went to OT against Denver, but if not for the two special teams touchdowns by the Broncos, the Ravens would have won easily).
  • In the Conference Championship games, both home teams were winning at halftime, and then in a crazy reversal, neither of those teams scored in the 2nd half on their way to crushing losses.
  • Rookie QBs (and a few second-year guys) took the league by storm. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and RGIII each led their teams to the playoffs as rookies, and so did second-year QBs Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder (though in Ponder’s case “led” is too strong of a word…more like “rode” for him).

Logic would say that the 49ers have been one of the best teams in football for the last two years. Logic would tell you that San Francisco ranks extremely high in both the traditional and the advanced football stats. Logic would tell you that the 9ers handled a feisty NFC West and a very difficult NFC much better than the Ravens handled a weak AFC North and an even weaker AFC.

The 49ers winning the Super Bowl makes sense.

The Ravens have had major injuries all year that they’re still dealing with. Their defense has been below average. All of the advanced stats marked them as a playoff team that should not have gotten past the second round. They limped into the playoffs. They’re old. If you’re like me, you’ve been predicting their demise since week 9 of the regular season.

The Ravens winning the Super Bowl makes absolutely no sense.

The Ravens will win the Super Bowl 26-24.

In this particular game, there’s a huge difference between what I think’s going to happen and what I’m rooting for to happen. My hope is that the 49ers win by 3. That way the team I’d rather see win still wins, but the team I’m betting on covers the spread. By the way, on my betting website, San Francisco is favored by 4.

Even if you’re sure that the 49ers are winning this game, I’m warning you that it’s extremely irresponsible to bet on them to cover. How could you possibly think the final game of this season isn’t coming down to a field goal? How can you bet against the Ravens, a team that clearly borrowed the Manning Family’s ongoing deal with the devil for just this season? Every year a bullshit team emerges from the wildcard weekend rubble to go on and win the Super Bowl. Why would it be different this time?

If the Ravens do end up winning, I guess I’ll be happy for one guy: Ed Reed. You can kinda sorta root for him, can’t you? For the past 10 years, that Baltimore team has been filled with unlikeable shit talkers (Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, that random linebacker who talked shit to the Patriots three weeks ago) and insufferable preachers (Ray Lewis, Ray Lewis’s ego, Ray Lewis’s mic’d up ego). But I can’t remember Ed Reed ever saying or doing something stupid. He always flies under the radar even though he’s a Hall-of-Famer. And how can you not like a guy who’s name was so synonymous with shutdown defense during the mid-2000’s that I nicknamed one of my roommates “the Ed Reed of beer pong” because of that roommate’s uncanny ability to play defense against bounced pong balls even when he wasn’t looking at the table? (I guess some would say Anquan Boldin is pretty deserving of a Championship too. And I’m fine with that. He’s been a warrior for so many years now.)

So I’m putting my 7-3 playoff record against the spread on the line with Baltimore. Who cares, right? Let’s move on to the fun stuff.

The Super Bowl Party Requirements

I’m actually a pretty simple man when it comes to my Super Bowl party needs. Actually that sentence should read “I’m actually a pretty simple man when it comes to my Super Bowl party needs when the Patriots are not involved.” If the Pats are involved, I need to be holed up in a dark apartment in complete control of all the variables during the game. But in a non-Patriots year, here’s what I need:

  • A TV larger than 42 inches 
  • TV speakers that are turned up loud enough to drown out the conversation the six girls are having. You know, the girls who haven’t looked at the TV yet even though it’s the 2nd quarter, but they’re perfectly happy taking up all the good couch space? Those girls.
  • Snacking food available before, during and after the game. Personally I hate the Super Bowl commercials. So much build up for what boils down to the typical uninspiring ads. I use the commercial time for food and drink refills (bonus points if some of the snacking food was cooked using a smoker, a rotisserie or a deep fryer)
  • Speaking of drinks, you gotta have drink options. If my bets are going well, I’ll probably stick to beer and enjoy the memories of a successful Super Sunday. If my bets are tanking, I’ll need that Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey on the rocks to forget this shitty day (But in all honesty if I’m winning my bets I’ll probably switch over to hard liquor eventually too).
  • Super Bowl Squares! You’re not a real Super Bowl party if you don’t do the squares. If you don’t have enough people to fill 100 squares before the game, you should have thought twice before hosting the party.
  • Someone to make ridiculous “in-game bets” against. The Super Bowl is so long, and sometimes boring. I always try to stand next to someone who will get on board with making $1 and $2 bets against me on random things like “Will Phil Simms use the phrase ‘penetrate the middle’ within the next five minutes?”

That’s it. Six things.

Prop Bets Galore

First for some props that I’m feeling good about that are focused on the actual game:

Alternative Point Spread: Baltimore -7.5 (4/1 odds)

If you’re like me and you assume random, unexpected and unnecessary results are going to continue into the Super Bowl, doesn’t it make perfect sense that the Ravens would win in a bit of a blowout?

Will the game go to overtime: Yes (6/1)

It’s gotta happen eventually in the Super Bowl. And it feels perfectly setup this year to hear Jim Nantz gush “And wouldn’t you know it, Phil. It’s gonna take an extra quarter to decide which Harbaugh is best. Boy, I wish we could watch these two teams battle forever.” Gross. Kill me now.

Will the Ravens successfully convert a 4th down: Yes (+135)

Will the 49ers successfully convert a 4th down: Yes (+110)

Free Money.

Unfortunately I can’t write those two words and just leave it at that. I was stunned when I saw the odds for each team converting a 4th down in this game. I mean, it’s the Super Bowl, both coaches have shown to be aggressive in the past, and how often these days does a team not attempt one or two 4th down conversions in a game? Right? Well it turns out the Ravens are 0-for-1 on 4th down attempts in their three playoff games this year, and the 49ers are 0-for-0 in their two games. I still feel like this is free money.

What will be the first enforced penalty in the game: Pass Interference (7/1)

Why not? Sure the odds favor a false start or holding penalty in this bet, but that’s no fun. Can’t you picture Flacco or Kaepernick going deep early and the refs calling a ticky-tack PI on the defender?

Who will win MVP: Anquan Boldin (16/1), Randy Moss (50/1)

You know the drill with me by now. I’m not making prop bets to go with the smart, sensible picks. Yes, the MVP will likely go to the winning team’s quarterback, but I’d rather go with a couple longshots. And don’t talk yourself into betting on a running back here. The last time a runner won this award was 15 years ago. Three wide receivers have won it since then.

P.S. If you make a bet on Ray Lewis to win the MVP at 7/1 odds, don’t ever talk to me again. For one thing, how can anyone root for that poser to win anything, let alone an ego-exploding Super Bowl MVP Award? And another thing, only 7/1 odds for an over-the-hill, had-to-use-fucking-deer-antler-steroids middle linebacker who’s had the quietest 44-tackle playoffs in NFL history? Those are terrible, terrible odds, dummy.

Player to score the first touchdown in the game: Bernard Pierce (22/1), Vonta Leach (28/1)

The fullback handoff at the 1-yard line is the oldest trick in the book. And ol’ Johnny Harbaugh can show his baby bro that this game’s gonna be a bruiser if he runs it win with Leach to open the game. And as for Pierce, he’s looked much more explosive than Ray Rice lately. If someone’s gonna break a long run, the odds are on Pierce (though if you wanna make a Pierce bet and trade in some profit for better odds, you can take him to score a TD at any point in the game at 4/1 odds or be the first RAVEN to score at 15/1).

And here are some props that have nothing to do with actual football:

If Ray Lewis is interviewed on TV after the game (on the field or in the locker room), how many times will he mention “God/Lord”: Over 3 (-120)

This isn’t even a question. As long as when he refers to the big man as “Lord God” that counts as two.

Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first: Teammates (8/5)

A bet on teammates is basically a bet against Ray Lewis winning the MVP. The other 105 guys on these rosters would thank their teammates first, guaranteed. Ray Ray would thank god first, second and third.

What color will the Gatorade (or liquid) be that is dumped on the Head Coach of the Winning Team: Blue (7/1)

Call me crazy, but I think it’s blue’s year.

Who will be shown first during the game (from kickoff until final whistle)

Jim (+110)

John (+110)

Split screen of both (+300)

C’mon. How would CBS miss an opportunity right after the opening kickoff to put a split screen of the two coaches up to make it seem like the Super Bowl is a one-on-one battle this year?

How long will the postgame handshake/hug last between Jim and John Harbaugh: Over 6 seconds (-105)

Just as long as it takes more than six seconds for one of them to say, “Congrats, brother. Great game, great game. By the way did you notice Mom’s wearing beads around her neck? Scary, right?” I timed those words…about 6.5 seconds.

[Editor’s Note: Just like all you readers need a break from hearing about football for a little while after the Super Bowl, so too do I need a break from writing about football. For those of you who read my tens of thousands of words on football this year, thank you. It was definitely an experiment to see if people would bother reading the opinions of a nobody, especially when you can find the opinions of so many somebodys on the web. Just think, in five short months it’ll be perfectly acceptable for all of us to be thinking about our fantasy teams, our favorite real teams and our suicide pools once again. And there’s not a damn thing our girlfriends can do about it. I’m already looking forward to the 2013 regular season!]

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The Starbucks Experience: The Writers, The Regulars and The (Possibly) Homeless

For those of you who read my football posts, you know I made a New Year’s resolution to write for at least 20 hours per week. Rather than spend most of my day thinking about writing and getting mad at myself for not writing, I decided to buckle down and force myself to actually write. My other New Year’s resolution was to spend time each week thinking about applying for a job. I’m happy to report that four weeks into 2013, these resolutions are going decent. I haven’t gotten to the 20 hour goal every week, but I’m always hovering around it.

A major reason for this spike in writing time is me finally realizing I need to leave my apartment everyday if I want to be productive. No matter how much I tell myself in the morning that I’m going to spend at least five hours at my desk writing, it just never happens. I’ll spend 45 minutes at my desk playing with a Rubik’s Cube (seriously). Then I’ll go “check on Molly” in the living room, which turns into me playing fetch with her for 30 minutes while the NFL Network is on TV in the background. Then I decide it’s best if I move my work area out to the couch so I can keep an eye on the dog while writing. Well now that I’m officially taking a break, I might as well check the DVR to see if anything good taped last night that I should watch. Then a quick search of my most-visited websites for any new content, and all of the sudden it’s 3PM and I’ve done about 30 actual minutes of writing.

So for the last three weeks, Starbucks in downtown Culver City has been my new office. While several distractions still exist—the ability to mindlessly browse the web, the temptation to watch the baristas make drinks in fancy machines—the biggest ones (Molly, TV, my bed) are all gone. Typically I go to Starbucks between 9-10AM and stay for at least four hours, sometimes longer.

When Julie was asking me all about my new daytime life at the coffee shop the other day, she was stunned by my revelation that I never order anything from Starbucks during the entire time I’m there. I’ve been there 15 of the last 21 days and haven’t ordered a thing in that time (it should be noted that I’ve never drank coffee in my life to this point, so this is a bit easier for me than others). I think Julie was actually appalled by this, like what I’m doing is probably a felony or something. I countered that plenty of people go to Starbucks for the sole purpose of doing work, and a lot of those people don’t order a damn thing. Starbucks knows this. They also know that people freeloading off their wi-fi isn’t going to hurt their sales so they might as well let people hang out all day and hope those people eventually order something. Right? Or am I totally crazy? Now if you want to make the argument that my behavior at Starbucks makes me no different from the homeless people who hang out there all day and never order anything, that’s perfectly fair. I’m only about two more jobless months away from officially joining their ranks anyway.

Well until the other day I thought my etiquette at Starbucks was just fine, but now I’m a little unsure. The poll at the bottom of this blog post is for my readers to weigh in on the debate. Please take a look.

The original point of this blog post was for me to provide insight into what it’s like hanging out all day every day at a Starbucks in Los Angeles. Coffee shops are notorious hangouts for unemployed, wannabe writers, and LA is the wannabe-writer’s capital of the world. So you’d think a Starbucks in LA would be overflowing with douchey delusional fake writers. Turns out no matter what time I’m at this particular Starbucks it is overflowing with people on their laptops. Unfortunately I can’t confirm that the majority of them are writers. Not everyone allows me to creepily stare at their computer screen.

But some of my fellow java house squatters are definitely working on screenplays and scripts like me. It always boosts my morale to think about how bad their scripts probably are. But I also notice a good percentage of those people with laptops doing real work, like filling out sales reports, emailing their employees, designing marketing collateral, etc. So the demographic of laptopers at Starbucks is probably a 50/50 split between gainfully employed people and painfully unemployed people like me.

But of course some of these writers stand out over their peers, and not everyone who hangs out all day at Starbucks has a laptop. So let’s go a layer deeper and explore some of my favorite regulars at the Culver City Starbucks:

SpongeBob SquarePants Guy: This guy may or may not be homeless, but he probably is. I’ve never been to Starbucks and not seen him. He either sits at the outdoor seating if the weather’s good, or he comes inside if the weather’s not good. I call him SpongeBob SquarePants Guy because he’s always wearing a giant yellow hat in the shape of the SpongeBob character, and he’s always drinking out of a plastic travel mug that’s also shaped like Bob. He wears the same bright plaid pants and sweatshirt every day (a detail that leads me to believe he’s homeless), and he always has a mini-DVD player and a case of DVDs with him (a detail that leads me to believe maybe he’s not homeless). If he is homeless, he’s the type of homeless I appreciate…doesn’t bother anyone, never asks for money, minds his own business (this probably means there’s no way he’s homeless, right?)

Homeless Dude Whose Pants Are Always Falling Down: Pretty self-explanatory. He’s the polar opposite of SpongeBob Guy on the homeless spectrum. He’s always asking for money, he’s loud and his pants are always falling most of the way down so you’re forced to see a lot more of him than you ever wanted. I have no idea what type of things he says to people because I’m smart enough to know that you always keep your headphones in your ears at Starbucks. I do know that almost every day of the week, the Culver City Police show up and escort this guy off the Starbucks premises.

Straddling The Fence Between Homeless & Homed Guy: The most confusing guy in the whole place. He often sits at the same table I’m sitting at and spends most of the day doing crossword puzzles. He eats a bag of Cheetos every single day, and every now and then he makes a phone call to someone who seems like his AA sponsor or parole officer. I say that because I often hear him saying things like, “There’s this guy sitting down at another table dressed in SpongeBob SquarePants gear, and it’s taking everything in me not to go over there and hit him.” (Swear to god I heard him have that exact conversation.) So I’m thinking he’s calling some sort of mentor/sponsor person in that case. He also wears very old, ratty clothing, and he seems to know an awful lot about the other homeless people milling about. My best guess is that he’s a former homeless person who’s gotten his shit together and is doing his best to stay out of trouble. I can tell you that he’s very polite and courteous when you move your backpack to free up a chair for him.

Foreign Couple Feeding Each Other in a Very Sexual Way: Speaking of people sitting at a table with me, I should let you know that at this particular Starbucks they have a large table in the middle of the place that fits up to eight people. So if you’re unlucky enough to have to sit there, you’ll be surrounded by strangers. The other day I was sitting there minding my own business when I looked up to see this man and woman literally feeding each other bites of blueberry coffee cake. Like it was their wedding cake…they were putting it in each other’s mouths, wiping it on each other’s cheeks and lips. It was so fucking strange. I hate when people do crazy shit like that and then I hear their foreign accents. Because I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the awkward public-feeding is customary in their homeland.

Sweatpants Movie Writer Who’s Always Creeping Me Out: This guy I’ve seen a few times. He’s obviously working on a movie script (I base that on the fact that I’ve totally looked at his computer screen and notebook when he goes to the bathroom, and he is in fact writing a pretty bad-looking script). He always wears sweatpants and a sweatshirt, always the same color. And I swear he spends the entire time staring at other people. And usually it feels like he’s just staring at me. I’m not positive that he really is, but all I know is every time I look up from my computer screen, there he is, looking directly at me. Buddy, that screenplay isn’t gonna fix itself. You might think about spending less time giving everyone the creeps and more time developing your protagonist.

The Guy With Terrible Spatial Senses: You know the guy. Of course you do. Because he doesn’t only exist at this Starbucks. He’s the guy who treats a small public space as if he’s alone in his study at his Beverly Hills mansion. He’s sitting at a table with three chairs. Two of the chairs are covered in his belongings. The chair he’s sitting in is pushed all the way back to the point where it’s touching the table behind him…so no one can walk by without having to tell him every fucking time to push his chair in. He’s got computer cords everywhere. He’s basically running a military command center out of a crowded public space and he doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.

The Guy Who’s Way Too Excited About Being a Regular: Anyone who’s worked in the food service industry knows this guy. He’s a regular and he knows it, and loves it. He does everything short of giving each Starbucks employee the wink & the gun as he enters. Prior to ordering his coffee, he talks to the cashier about whatever’s on his mind for 15 minutes, and then after they hand him his coffee he proceeds to stand as close to the barista as possible to continue his conversation. Only the barista has like 325 drinks to make so he’s super annoyed by the regular. My advice for you: Never be the first person this regular makes eye contact with after he realizes the barista is blowing him off…because he will transfer that conversation to you. He obviously wants to talk and he doesn’t care who’s on the other end of that conversation, just as long as it’s another person. Don’t let yourself be that person.

The Woman Who Tries To Be the “Mom” of Starbucks: I don’t even know if that’s a good description for this lady, but she definitely reminds me of an overly-concerned mom. I’ve only seen her at Starbucks three times, but each time, after about an hour of her being there, she stands up and announces to the entire place that “sitting for too long is really bad for you. So I’m gonna stand up for a few minutes.” Again, I’m not lying or exaggerating. She makes that PSA loud enough for everyone to hear. I think she’s always hoping people will stand up with her. She’s looking for companions in the fight against sitting for too long. But when everyone ignores her, she proceeds to shake her head and make a “pfffff” sound under her breath, just so we all know how disappointed she is in us. And just like the regular guy, if you accidentally lock eyes with this woman, she will give you a one-on-one talking to about the dangers of all us fatso’s sitting down for too long. When I’m in a bad mood and she’s there, I always catch myself hoping she eventually dies from a heart attack or clogged arteries. That’ll teach her.

Douchey Red Sox Hat-Wearing Weirdo Who Brings His Own Sandwich and Water to Starbucks: Wait, that’s me. Hopefully my 17-inch MacBook helps people realize that even though I bring the same sandwich packaged in saran wrap every day, I’m not homeless. Yet.

Now take the damn poll.

First Run-In with LAPD Produces My Very Own “Lebowski Moment”

Dispatcher: “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

Me: “Yeah, uh, someone just threw a glass bottle at my car while I was driving down Santa Monica Boulevard.”

Dispatcher: “OK. What started the altercation?”

Me: “I said ‘fuck you’ to him.”

Dispatcher: “OK, we’re sending a police unit over…”

Ask anyone who knows Los Angeles what the worst part of the city to drive through is, and I’d bet my life that their answer is “Hollywood.” The whole area is a constant cluster fuck of rich locals driving their $100K cars way too slowly, adventurous Angelenos heading for a hike in the hills, and tourists wandering around completely befuddled as to why the famous “Hollywood Boulevard” is so underwhelming as an attraction (that’s an entirely separate blog post someday).

Based on where my apartment is in the Culver City area, there’s no worse place to have to drive to than Hollywood. It’s just far enough away that taking the freeway through downtown almost makes sense. Except that in LA, taking the freeway should always be a last resort. If your life is depending on it, I guess you should consider taking the freeway. Otherwise go side roads. When I inevitably have to suck it up and visit Hollywood, the goal is always just to get there and back without incident.

Saturday afternoon’s drive home from Hollywood can best be described as “with incident.” And it was this incident that finally made me google the sentence “when should you use 9-1-1”.

LAPD’s website answered: 911 should only be used for an emergency. An emergency is a life-threatening situation, crime in progress, or serious crime that has just occurred.”

Something tells me what happened to me and Julie on Saturday at 5pm was not an emergency in the life-threatening/serious crime sense. But does anyone bother to remember their local police department’s phone number these days? Do people have a bunch of emergency contacts stored in their phones? Or do people react to all police-necessitating situations like I do and lazily dial 9-1-1?

Maybe it’s best if I start from the beginning. Let’s see…how to best describe my driving habits without having my girlfriend’s parents read this and panic over the kind of maniac who’s driving their daughter around. I guess you could best categorize me as a combination of “ultra-aggressive with safety in mind” and “short fuse towards any driver who makes a mistake.”

And LA suits my style perfectly. LA driving is on a level of aggression I’ve never seen before. It’s like I’m sharing the road with 10 million other Ross’s. And if there were 10 million of me on the road, I imagine there would be plenty of controlled road rage. Normal things like swearing, flipping each other off and giving people the handjob sign as a symbol of your annoyance level (don’t pretend like you’ve never escalated from the middle finger to mimicking an HJ at somebody…I have no idea what that’s supposed to tell someone, but we all do it).

So when Julie and I were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard Saturday afternoon and I started honking my horn and screaming at a cab driver who just cut across three lanes of traffic, cutting me off in the process, I couldn’t help but be a little bit proud of him. He’s a man after my own heart. He needed to get in the left lane immediately and just went for it. Screw all the other drivers. While part of me respects that aggression, another part of me loves to antagonize people who do stupid shit while driving (cutting me off is one of those things).

When I pulled up next to this cab at the next traffic light, his window was down and he was staring at me. He mumbled something to the effect of, “Screw you, everyone does it.”

Ask my Mom what it’s like trying to get the last word in against me. It doesn’t happen. So just to make sure he knew I disagreed with his driving, I replied “fuck you” and then pulled forward a few feet. The next thing I know the cops are swarming around me, trying to revive me and checking to make sure I know where I am. There’s flashing lights and police sirens everywhere.

Wait, no, that’s not what happened at all.

The next thing that happened was the cab driver threw a glass bottle and hit the back of my car. I think I would have been less shocked if he had pulled out a gun and started spraying bullets at the side of my car. I immediately backed up a few feet to pull even with him again, and asked in a completely shocked voice, “Did you just throw something at my car?” His response? “Fuck you.”

Every detail at that point is foggy except for his license plate number, which Julie and I immediately wrote down. He sped off one way (yes, I believe he did in fact get the last word, dammit); we slowly drove the other way, completely shellshocked. Who throws a glass bottle at a car in the middle of a crowded intersection? What kind of cab driver loses his mind after another driver says “fuck you” to him? Doesn’t that happen to him probably 15 times a day?

So I dialed 9-1-1 a minute later for two reasons: 1). Shock. I didn’t know what to do, really. What’s the protocol for this? Let it go? Sure it wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but there was a crime in progress wasn’t there? And 2). I didn’t know how much damage had been done to my car. I figured it would be best to get it on record with the Police in case the bastard had messed up my car.

If I could do it all over again, I probably would have pulled off to the side of the road and looked at the back of my car before calling the cops. Turns out there was no damage, and all the cops did was not-so-subtley lecture me on the unimportance of the incident. They couldn’t have been more honest about how little of a priority this was to them.

But for anyone who’s ever watched The Big Lebowski and wanted their very own “leads? yeah, sure, just let me check with the boys down at the crime lab”  moment, I got mine. After we asked if they were going to find the guy who did this to me, the cop said, “Yeah, um, another unit is checking him out right now.” Suuuuure they are.

What’s the point of this article? Fuck, I dunno. For me to vent, I guess. For me to get reader feedback on whether “throwing a bottle at a car” is the next logical escalation in the altercation I had with this guy (I think he should have spit on my car before throwing a bottle, that’s the correct order in my opinion). To warn any reader who ends up in a car with me that there’s at least an outside chance this could happen again, considering I don’t plan on reducing the number of “hand job mimics” I pass out on a daily basis.

Oh, and for anyone in LA that wants to boycott the cab company with me, it was a Beverly Hills Cab driver:

beverlyhillscab

Coping With the Latest Boston Sports Loss By Reminiscing About Past Disappointments, and Looking for Silver Linings!

As experienced as Boston fans are at celebrating our teams’ big wins, we’ve also become equally adept at dealing with their catastrophic losses. That gives you an indication of how successful Boston sports have been over the past 12 years. On one side we have three Patriots Super Bowl Titles, two Red Sox World Series Championships, a 17th banner for the Celtics and most recently a Stanley Cup for the Bruins. But on the other side there are two Patriots Super Bowl losses (one while chasing a perfect season), two Patriots AFC Championship Game losses (with the Pats leading both those games at halftime), two Red Sox ALCS losses in seven games (including the 2003 Grady Little/Pedro game), a Celtics NBA Title loss in seven games (after being up in the series three games to two), and a Celtics Conference Championship loss in seven games (ditto).

Side Note: Holy Shit. Can’t we ever just lose a playoff series in five games? Maybe get swept in four games? Why do all our losses come in the most dramatic fashion?

Anyway, the first side of that coin makes it impossible for anyone to empathize with us on the second side of the coin. And that’s fair. But it doesn’t mean that these playoff losses hurt us any less than they hurt fans of other teams.

I don’t have a recap of Sunday’s games for obvious reasons (A full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey + a mind-boggling Patriots loss). But what I do have is a smorgasbord of disjointed thoughts on coping with tough sports losses.

Until just a couple years ago, I always took my teams’ losses extremely tough. And I always thought it was my god-given right to react as poorly to these losses as I wanted. When I say “extremely tough” I’m talking about drowning my sorrows in whatever cheap booze I could find, holing up in my bedroom for days, refusing to talk to people, and even crying. Yes, crying!

Here’s an incomplete list of some of those poor reactions I’m talking about:

  • After the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, I walked into my kitchen, lined up four shot glasses and took down half a bottle of shitty Vodka in about three minutes. I proceeded to walk the streets of Boston by myself for hours that night, alternating between looking for a Yankees fan to punch in the face and crying into the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
  • Also after that ’03 disaster, I wouldn’t talk to my oldest brother (one of the bigger Boston sports influences in my life) for three weeks. He didn’t wanna talk to me either. It would just be too painful to have to rehash the details…actually I think we would have set the world record for longest phone call without any words spoken. So for 20 days my poor Mom had to act as a go-between for us whenever we wanted to tell each other something.
  • When the Patriots lost to the Giants in February 2008, me and my other brother had to walk home from my oldest brother’s apartment. On the way (keep in mind it was a one-mile walk), we split eight beers and a bottle of champagne. Apparently this loss was too painful to simply drown our sorrows in alcohol. For this loss, we needed to be destructive. So we went out into the street, threw my Patriots hat on the ground, doused it in lighter fluid and set that thing on fire. Thinking we had proved our point, I turned away from the flames to walk back inside. When I turned around one more time to say “see you in hell” to the hat, I found my brother pissing on the burning hat. It was a perfect exclamation point.
  • After that same Patriots loss, I strolled into work at 11am the next morning with a pounding headache. This awful co-worker (a pompous, conniving, little shit) was waiting at my desk just so he could be the first person to scream “18-1” in my face. Ever since that day, I’ve always hoped he would contract a deadly disease. After Richard Sherman and Terrell Suggs, I think he’s the person I’d most likely kill if I was guaranteed to get away with it (If I knew back then that I didn’t want a career in software sales, I probably would have thrown him out of our office’s third story window).
  • And after last year’s Super Bowl loss I simply walked through the Mission District in San Francisco looking to talk trash to, and possibly get in a fight with. anyone wearing New York Giants gear.

So after the latest edition of “Patriots choke in the playoffs” on Sunday, how did I react? By taking my dog for a long walk with my girlfriend and then drowning my sorrows in chocolate. I’ll admit I had one moment on that walk where I started stomping my feet and whining that “it isn’t fair, why can’t they just win one more Super Bowl while Brady’s around…”

Is my lack of a childish reaction to this latest loss a sign that I’m growing up? Actually, I think it’s just more of a realization I had over the past couple years when it comes to sports: Let’s say you have a favorite team in each of the four major sports. Most people are lucky if they get to see two or three championships among their four teams in a lifetime. Let’s say you live to be 85 years old and the first 10 years of your life don’t count because you were too young to be affected by your teams’ wins and losses. That means 75 years of actually caring about sports, multiplied by four teams per year. You have 300 different sports seasons that have to come to an end at some point. Even the luckiest among us are going to see 290 of those seasons end in bitter disappointment.

That’s where my realization comes in. Can I really spend a lifetime having meltdown after meltdown whenever my teams lose? Because they’re going to lose a lot. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I’m just saying we have no choice but to put it behind us and move on with life. Much like a football team does after a regular season win when they say they’re going to celebrate for one night and then move on to the next opponent, it’s OK to spend one night being miserable after a playoff loss, but then the sun comes up the next day and it’s time to get over it.

My advice is to wait two days before reading your local newspapers, watching sports programming on TV or listening to any sort of sports talk radio. Two days is enough time for you to cool off and go to your happy place. And for the people living in Boston, you should feel lucky. You get to go to work this week surrounded by mostly fellow miserable Boston sports fans. There are Boston fans all over the country who had to walk into work yesterday morning and deal with fans of other cities who couldn’t wait to rub this loss in their faces. Trust me, it’s as helpless of a feeling as you can have.

In the spirit of getting over this latest setback, here are some silver linings for New England fans:

  • Having Wes Welker back next year would be huge, of course, but let’s not forget that the chances of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing time with injuries in 2013 are very slim.
  • The running backs will only get better. Stevan Ridley is their best pure runner, but Shane Vereen was the surprise in the playoffs, establishing himself as a capable runner and receiver.
  • The offense is as good as it’s ever been, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down anytime soon.
  • There’s absolutely no indication that Tom Brady is slowing down. He was still a top-10 quarterback in every important category this year. If you think the Championship window is only open as long as Brady is playing at an elite level, I’d say we have at least three more seasons of opportunity.
  • There’s also no indication that Bill Belichick is regressing as a coach or losing his desire to run the Patriots (if you mention the two times Brady/Belichick screwed up clock management at the end of a half this year, I will stab you. Name a coach or QB who hasn’t made those one or two gaffes this year).
  • The defense improved this year, and it’s young enough that you can expect more improvement next year. They were a top-10 defense in points allowed per game this season, they increased their takeaway-to-giveaway differential from +17 in 2011 to +25 in 2012, and they’re heading in the right direction in terms of yards allowed per game (from 31st-ranked in 2011 to 25th in 2012).
  • Remember how the Patriots thrived as a “no one believes in us” team 10 years ago? Maybe now that they’ve choked away playoff games four years in a row, when next January rolls around, they can play the “no one believes in us in a big game” card.
  • It could be worse, we could be sports fans who have to pretend to enjoy rooting for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.

When you finally emerge from the dark hole you crawled into after Sunday night’s game, you may be wondering who you should root for in the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of this blog. You root for the 49ers, hard. You do not root for the team that doesn’t know how to be a gracious, respectful winner (Suggs and other Ravens just couldn’t contain themselves after the game. They just had to take more satisfaction in the Patriots losing than in their own team winning). You don’t root for the team that has one of the biggest headhunters in the game (Bernard Pollard). You don’t root for the team who, if they win the Super Bowl, would probably say something like “This one title means more than the Patriots’ three titles because of SpyGate.” That’s not a team that deserves to win anything. But if the Ravens do win, I won’t freak out and throw a tantrum. I’ll just look forward to the regular season meeting between them and the Patriots in 2013.

NFL Championship Weekend Preview: Prepping for Patriots vs 49ers, Free Money Prop Bets and Much More

[Editor’s Note: You may find seemingly random phrases such as “Te’O” “Catfish” “Doprah” and “Liestrong” peppered throughout this blog post. Just ignore them. It’s simply part of our new page views grab/search engine optimization initiative. Thanks for your understanding.]

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write a minimum of 20 hours per week. That doesn’t include time spent thinking about writing or staring at a blank computer screen considering all the different things I could be writing about. I’m talking 20 hours of actual pen-to-paper or finger-to-keyboard production.

Your initial reaction might be something like, “Well, Ross, that shouldn’t be too hard considering you’re unemployed and trying to make a career out of being a writer. Shouldn’t you be aiming for closer to 40 hours a week?”

Point made, reader. Point made. But you’d be surprised at how often in 2012 I told myself I was going to put in a six or seven-hour day of writing only to be foiled by uncontrollable distractions. Here’s an example: A couple weeks ago I was sitting at the desk in my bedroom getting some good writing done when I noticed my dog, who was laying on my bed at the time, staring at a beam of light on the wall that was being reflected from my computer screen. For the next 90 minutes, I screwed around with my computer screen—slowly opening and closing it—to make the beam of light move all over the walls and ceiling of the bedroom. The dog stared that thing down for the full 90 minutes, and she even lunged at the wall a few times. How am I supposed to be productive when such an unavoidable distraction pops up??

Anyway, my point is that for these first three weeks of January, I’ve been very disciplined…on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But it never fails that when Thursday rolls around, all my attention turns to the NFL. In one sense it’s just a product of being a huge football fan and the anticipation & build-up of each coming weekend. In another sense, it has a lot to do with my favorite team still being involved in these playoffs. I can spend the first part of the week giving minimal attention to ESPN.com, Boston.com, the NFL Network and all the other media outlets that are providing non-stop football—and specifically Patriots—coverage. But come Thursday, you can find me reading Bill Barnwell’s Grantland.com football articles while having the NFL Network up on my TV while listening to a football-focused podcast on my iPhone.

And that’s just for the Wildcard and Divisional Rounds. When we get to the Championship and Super Bowl weeks, I’ll do all those things plus re-watch any Patriots games that the NFL Network’s showing on their NFL Replay, I’ll tape ESPN shows like “Pardon the Interruption” and “Around the Horn” just so I can get mad at whichever talking heads pick against New England, and if I’m really trying to waste some time, I’ll pop in one of the Patriots Super Bowl Highlights DVDs and watch it from start to finish.

So to hit my 20 hours of writing per week goal in January, it seems like I either have to devote seven hours a day to it during the early part of the week (unlikely) or put in some writing time on the weekends to make up for the Thursday and Friday laziness (unheard of). I think the best way to handle this is to start my New Year’s resolutions on the Monday after the Super Bowl from now on…at least until Tom Brady retires.

At this point in the season, with only two games happening this weekend, it’s sorta pointless to give you a generic overview and pick for each game. You’ve no doubt read plenty about how Atlanta’s struggles against Cam Newton this year mean they’re screwed against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. Or how Baltimore and New England tend to play close games against each other. What I’m gonna do  is still make a pick against the spread for each game, but before that I’ll give my unofficial list of all the reasons each team should be concerned heading into their conference championship game. And after the picks, we’ll talk about the best prop bets for the weekend (FYI, on top of killing it in my prop bets for the divisional round, I’m also about to get paid for my “Will Bruce Arians be a head coach” bet. Once again, hope you listened to me real good on those).

By the way, how absurd do the lines on this weekend’s games seem? The Ravens are 10-point underdogs after putting up 38 in Denver a week ago, and they’re facing a team they ALWAYS play close. Ludicrous. And the Falcons somehow might be getting less respect than before they got the playoff-win monkey off their back last week. Five-point underdogs at home? Against an inexperienced quarterback? Insanity. Just because these lines seem crazy doesn’t necessarily mean my picks were easy for once.

San Francisco @ Atlanta (+4.5)

Reasons San Francisco should be worried:

  • Atlanta is now 8-1 at home this year. It’s not fair that we give Seattle so much props for their incredible home field advantage, and we discount how awesome the Falcons have been at home, both this year and in Matt Ryan’s career.
  • Ryan and this Falcons team no longer have the weight of “can’t win a playoff game” on their shoulders.
  • Sure, the Falcons almost blew last week’s game, but the final score says that they beat Seattle, a team many were comparing to the 49ers all year in terms of playing style, strengths, etc (also a team that demolished the 49ers in week 16).
  • San Francisco opened as a three-and-a-half point favorite, and it’s grown to as much as five points. Atlanta, a home underdog, is the only team left in the playoffs that can play the “nobody believes in us” card.
  • The 49ers were “only” 5-3 on the road this year, losing two road games by more than 10 points. They’re not invincible away from Candlestick Park.
  • It’s crazy to think a guy as young and inexperienced as Kaepernick will get through the playoffs without one bad game. If it doesn’t come this weekend, is he due for a stinker in the Super Bowl?
  • The favorites are 7-1 against the spread in the playoffs. The underdogs have to step up at some point, right?
  • If the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl, they’ll be one win away from giving the city of San Francisco simultaneous reigning champs in baseball and football. That’s only allowed to happen in New England.

Reasons Atlanta should be worried:

  • If Kaepernick’s first playoff game wasn’t an aberration or lack of facing a decent defense, then we should all be terrified.
  • Jim Harbaugh vs Mike Smith might be the biggest coaching mismatch of the entire playoffs. Harbaugh might be the second-best in all of football at this point, and Smith is extremely outcoachable.
  • I mentioned their home record, but you can’t ignore “Carolina at home by two,” “Oakland at home by three,” and “Arizona (with Ryan Lindley as its QB) at home by four.” As long ago as those games were, this Falcons team still has the ability to play that bad. The 49ers will win by 30 if that happens.
  • When every intelligent football analyst has been dismissing you as a contender for the last 10 weeks, there’s probably a legitimate reason for it.

The pick against the spread: I know I’m going to regret this when San Francisco’s up by 17 in the 2nd quarter, but I’m taking Atlanta. I just think it’s too ridiculous for a team to be favored by this much on the road. The 9ers are definitely worse on the road, and the Falcons almost never get beat badly. I just keep thinking about how similar San Francisco is to Seattle. No team in the NFC this year really stood out and dominated the competition. I think that means we’re due for a close game.

The prediction: San Francisco 27, Atlanta 23

Baltimore @ New England (-10)

Reasons Baltimore should be worried:

  • Do we even need to go over these?
  • Tom Brady, two wins from his 4th Super Bowl
  • Bill Belichick, two wins from his 4th Super Bowl as a head coach (6th overall)
  • New England’s a team that still feels the sting of coming so close and failing in 2011 and 2007.
  • The Patriots relishing the chance to end the career of Ray Lewis, the face of the biggest trash-talking team that hasn’t won a damn thing in the past decade.
  • New England’s seemingly unstoppable offense (or “gimmick offense” if you prefer to call it that), complete with interchangeable parts.

Reasons New England should be worried:

  • No one plays the Patriots as close as Baltimore. Since the start of 2007, five of the six games between these teams have been decided by six or fewer points.
  • The Ravens are the one team that New England can’t seem to top 30 points against. 
  • Baltimore’s not playing the “nobody believes in us” card…they’re playing the “house money” card, or the “nothing to lose” card. Ray Lewis is retiring so he’s got nothing to lose. John Harbaugh wasn’t expecting to get this far with his injury-riddled team so he’s playing with house money. And Joe Flacco already guaranteed himself a gigantic new contract from the Ravens after beating Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. Yeah, if he knocks off Tom Brady, he’ll probably earn a little more on that contract, but at this point, he’s got nothing to lose. His future is secure…They’re probably gonna play pretty loose because of that mentality.
  • Obviously the Ravens are still feeling the sting of last year’s AFC Title Game. They’ve never beat New England in a meaningful game.
  • The favorites are 7-1 against the spread in the playoffs. Aren’t we due for an underdog run?
  • Gronk. It’s crazy how little people are talking about his loss (I realize it’s because the Pats played most of the second half of this season without him). In a game like this, you really want your full arsenal of weapons.

The pick against the spread: How can a logical person expect the Patriots to win by more than 10? All signs point to another close game between these teams. Even if the Patriots win comfortably, “comfortably” in this situation probably means “by four or seven points.” I’m taking Baltimore to cover. Is this Patriots team really good enough to dispatch two teams in back-to-back games by more double digits? I hope so, but it’s tough to make the case for that happening.

The prediction: New England 31, Baltimore 23

Before we dive into prop bets that’ll get paid off by Sunday night, I wanted to put one out there that won’t get paid off for two weeks. Try to stay with me on this one. Right now you can bet on either the AFC or NFC to win the Super Bowl with the spread. The line is AFC -2.5. I can certainly understand you thinking I’m crazy to suggest betting on a game with a point spread before we know the teams involved. But let’s say the Patriots face the Falcons in the Super Bowl. What will the line be? Patriots by six? seven? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was as high as seven-and-a-half. If that happens, you’re sitting pretty with Patriots by less than a field goal. OK, but it’s much more likely that the 49ers beat Atlanta and we see a Patriots-9ers title game, right? My guess is the Patriots would be favored anywhere from two to three points in that scenario. In the majority of situations, the winning team is gonna win by a field goal or more. So you either have the Patriots giving two-and-a-half to the 9ers, which will be close to the actual line, or you have them giving those points to the Falcons, which would be at least a four-point advantage for you compared to the real line. Why not make that bet? Oh, and what happens if Baltimore upsets the Patriots this weekend? Well then you’d have a bet down on Baltimore, a team that just knocked off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks. Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have some money on them.

Here’s the rest of the prop bets I’m thinking about:

Who will record the most Passing Yards this weekend?

Joe Flacco (3/1) – Colin Kaepernick’s a little intriguing at 7/1 odds considering Russell Wilson had almost 400 yards in Atlanta last week. But then I realized Kaepernick hasn’t cracked 280 yards passing in any game this season. There’s no evidence he can even put up 300 yards if needed. Flacco makes sense because he’s throwing the deep ball well right now, they aren’t likely to have much running room against the Patriots defense, and the New England secondary is still the most suspicious secondary left in the playoffs.

Who will record the most Rushing Yards this weekend?

Save Your Money – I can’t even make an educated guess on this one. The running games in New England and Atlanta are essentially platoon situations. Good luck picking the right guy on either of those teams. With San Francisco, you can bet on Frank Gore or Kaepernick. Gore had 119 yards last week, but he’s only had two other 100+ yard games this year. Is Kaepernick really going to replicate his incredible ground game from the previous round? And finally there’s Ray Rice, clearly the most-talented of the options. But New England’s run D has been solid all year, and what happens if the Ravens are down by two touchdowns in the second half? Rice might get some passes his way, but the carries would be limited. No good options here.

Who will record the most Receiving Yards this weekend?

Aaron Hernandez (6/1) and Anquan Boldin (7/1) – Throw a small bet on each of these guys. I’m expecting so much attention to be paid to Wes Welker that Hernandez is the better bet to have a big day. And he’s got so much yards-after-catch potential that he doesn’t even need to be a deep threat to rack up the yardage. Kinda the same thing with Boldin in that the Patriots’ best cornerback, Aqib Talib, will be covering Torrey Smith all day, so the lesser defensive backs of New England will be responsible for Boldin. Could mean big things for him.

Will Michael Turner score a TD in the game?

Yes (+135) – Call it a hunch. Turner had a touchdown in six of Atlanta’s final seven regular season games. Atlanta’s game plan probably calls for being conservative near the end zone to make sure they don’t give the 49ers any game-changing turnovers. Inside the 10 yard line, I see Mike Smith calling for a lot of runs this weekend.

Player to score the first TD in the Atlanta-San Francisco game?

Harry Douglas (20/1) – Major hunch. I may have heard one of the more knowledgeable football analysts say that whichever 49er player is likely to cover Douglas isn’t very good. Simple as that.

Player to score the first TD in the New England-Baltimore game?

Michael Hoomanawanui (20/1) – Hooman will be in the game for obvious running situations as he’s much better as a blocker than he is as an actual receiving threat. So what do the Patriots do on their first red zone possession? Get Hooman on the field as if he’s going to block, and then let him sneak out into the end zone for a wide open touchdown catch. Free money.

NFL Round 2 Recap: Saying Goodbye to 4 More Unworthy Teams, Kicking Myself Out of the Bar and Much More

Good lord. Am I tired. The football players have it easy. They only had to live through one game this week. We had to deal with the emotional swings and constant anxiety of four games in two days. It really does feel like I just played in four football games. After the Wildcard Round’s “as much fun as a funeral” theme, the NFL sorta owed us this kind of weekend.

And after the football gods continued to punish me for some unknown reason with week-after-week of sub-.500 picks against the spread records, I finally bounced back in a big way. Let’s review my personal glory first:

  • 4-0 against the spread in my picks.
  • Made my biggest bet of the season on the Patriots to cover. I always stay away from betting the Pats, but this weekend felt like a can’t miss opportunity (the bet was basically six times my normal-sized bet, that’s all I’m willing to say).
  • 2-2 in the four prop bets I listed in Friday’s blog (not counting the bets that don’t pay off until next season). The nice thing about 2-2 is that the biggest long shot was on the winning side for me. Russell Wilson to have the most passing yards this weekend (15/1 odds). I really hope at least a couple people took that bet on my advice because the Atlanta-Seattle game went exactly as I expected and Wilson’s 385 passing yards easily beat the competition.

But the silly part about life as a football prognosticator is that you can put up a great record with picks in a given weekend but still be wrong with all the reasons you decided on those picks. Here are four things I got wrong in a big way this weekend:

  1. “Knowshon Moreno will have the most rushing yards of any running back” – It’s hard to lead all players in rushing yards when you don’t even lead your own team in that category. Moreno had 32 yards on the ground Saturday, which was only 51 yards less than his teammate Ronnie Hillman. Upon further review, it looks like Moreno had the 13th-most rushing yards of all players this weekend. Just barely missed that prediction.
  2. On my reasoning for taking the Ravens to cover against Denver: “And what if the Ravens’ far superior special teams puts up a touchdown? That’ll be a huge swing.” There were some special teams touchdowns that were big swings in this game, but both times it was Denver scoring on returns. I also still picked Denver to win by seven and “perhaps take their foot off the gas and allow for the Baltimore backdoor cover.” Wrong and wrong.
  3. On why the 49ers would handle Green Bay: “Mike McCarthy really is a bad coach and that’ll rear its ugly head sometime soon…Mason Crosby has been an unmitigated disaster and that’ll rear its ugly head sometime soon…As good as Rodgers is, his offensive line has been Pittsburgh Steeler-esque all year, and a team like San Francisco might really make them pay.” Of course McCarthy didn’t make any major blunders, Crosby made his one field goal attempt and nailed all four of his extra points, and the Packer O-line only gave up one sack. This game was entirely on the Green Bay defense.
  4. “You cannot overlook the fact that the Pats dropped 42 on the Texans without the services of Gronk. That’s the biggest X factor of this game in my opinion: New England is probably the healthiest team out of the eight remaining playoff contenders.” An X factor is defined as “A variable in a situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.” Not only did my “Patriots are the healthiest team” mantra become immediately wrong when Gronk, Danny Woodhead and Chandler Jones all went down in the first half, but the health of New England wasn’t anything close to an X factor (and of course I’m very happy to be wrong about this one).

Just like I did during the Wildcard round, I spent most of Saturday at Rocco’s Tavern in Culver City watching the games, and then planted myself on my couch for the Sunday schedule (but rather than let Julie talk me into a healthy meal for Sunday, we decided to do a practice run of our chili before next Sunday’s chili cook-off that we’re winning attending). If you thought last week’s recap was disjointed and random, you’re really going to hate this week’s. Saturday was spent trying and failing to pace myself at the bar (evidenced by the fact that I had to kick myself out of the bar with seven minutes left in the 2nd quarter of the San Francisco-Green Bay game), and Sunday was spent breathing heavily into a brown paper bag because of the anxiety that comes from having to wait until the last game of the weekend to see your team play. The rest of this blog isn’t so much a recap of the games as it is a smattering of random thoughts from the weekend:

-I was so worried that everyone was as amped up about football this weekend as I was that I showed up to the bar Saturday afternoon 40 minutes before kickoff. I told Julie that’s the only way we’d get a seat at the bar. Luckily we were able to choose among the 24 empty barstools when we got there. But more importantly, one of the only people who beat us to the bar was this older gentleman wearing a Peyton Manning Colts jersey. As the game got underway, he cheered his poor lonely heart out for the Broncos. It got me thinking about the proper protocol and etiquette when an iconic player on your favorite team goes to play for a different team. I couldn’t really draw from any personal experience because in my lifetime a player as adored as Manning was in Indy hasn’t left a Boston team and gone on to have success with another team. I decided to email the one Indianapolis fan that I know and ask his opinion. Here’s his response:

  • I have hated the Broncos and Elway since he (the overrated horse-toothed piece of garbage…) dissed the Colts when he came into the draft.  Unfortunately, this year I was cheering for them. The Bronco loss bothered me more than the Colts loss. I’m still a Colts fan, but I’m still a Manning fan. I’ve discussed this with hardcore Packer fans who went through a similar experience with Favre.  There is no good solution. It’s not as bad as the Sandusky situation at Penn State, so there are worse things in sports, but it really sucks.”

-Even though he was a little vague with his answer, I loved the unprovoked shot he took at Elway and the probably-unnecessary comparison to the Sandusky-Penn State thing. I’m stunned that he says the Denver loss bothered him more than the Colts’ loss. That seems backwards to me. If Tom Brady is playing for the Los Angeles Superficials four years from now, I highly doubt I’ll care even one-tenth as much about that team’s playoff run as I will about that year’s Patriots.

-Final thought on this: If Brady was in the exact same situation as Manning is currently in, I think I’d still root for him to do well, and watch his games with more than a casual fan’s interest. But his jersey would be hanging somewhere on my wall. I wouldn’t be wearing it out in public, and I certainly wouldn’t be cheering on his team with the same intensity as I cheer for the Patriots. I pray that I never have to deal with this stuff when it comes to Brady.

-Before kickoff of Denver-Baltimore I was actually torn on who I wanted the Patriots facing in the AFC Championship (I was that confident in a Pats win on Sunday). On the one hand, a Ravens win meant home field advantage for New England and in my opinion the lesser of the two possible opponents (I’m on record as tweeting 10 days ago “Baltimore has no shot against Denver”). On the other hand, wouldn’t an epic, turn-back-the-clock Brady vs Manning showdown for a spot in the Super Bowl be an amazing game? There aren’t too many more chances left of seeing something like that.  I know this is a lame way to think about things, but I also considered the fact that losing to Manning and the Broncos would be an easier pill to swallow because unlike the shit-talking, never-won-anything-important Ravens, the Broncos probably wouldn’t rub it in our face as much. Say what you want about Peyton Manning, but his teams have traditionally been humble in victory.

-All those thoughts rattled around in my head until the moment Manning ran out of the tunnel in Denver and the bar I was at erupted with cheers. Then I remembered how fun it’s been to root against Manning in the playoffs, and how every Manning playoff loss only widens the gap between him and Brady in terms of the best QB of this generation (and possibly of all time). So it was decided, go Baltimore.

-If you remember last week’s recap blog post, when I was drunk during the Wildcard round at this same bar, I spent about 15 minutes writing this blog’s URL on every coaster I could get my hands on. I checked all of them at the bar on Saturday and didn’t find any of my customized coasters. Either the bartenders threw them out immediately, or the bar’s customers saw the website and wanted to be sure to remember it and took the coasters home with them.

-I was so certain that the cold weather and the two-week layoff for Denver would make this a slow-starting game that I bet the under of 44. With four minutes left in the 1st quarter, there were already 28 total points.

-Obviously I don’t need to recap all the big plays that happened in this game…there were many and you’ve all seen them by now. But how about Champ Bailey getting repeatedly torched? The consensus I heard from talking to other fans and scanning twitter is that people have been giving respect to Champ for years by not throwing in his direction, so no one could have guessed that he was old and slow because he’s never tested. Is he really that bad all of the sudden, or is Torrey Smith just that fast? And how delusional am I for convincing myself that Aqib Talib and the Patriots defensive scheme are better equipped to defend the Flacco-Smith combo than Denver was?

-I found out what makes Julie nearly crap herself from laughter…when two players from the same team collide with each other and one of them falls to the ground with a thud. This happened in the 2nd quarter when Tandon Doss of Baltimore was returning a punt and got crushed by a teammate. Julie almost fell off her barstool, and she was only two drinks deep.

-Speaking of Julie, I finally found the perfect combination to get her to pay attention to an entire game:

  1. Let her make a bet on the game (I always let her make an 8-team parlay where a $1 bet wins like $250). This way she’ll have a specific team to root for.
  2. Take her to a bar. Not being at our apartment means she can’t spend the game cleaning, cooking, napping in the other room or playing with the dog.
  3. Get her to the bar 40 minutes before kickoff so she can consume all the latest info on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest before the game. Then and only then will she put her phone away and stare at the TV with me.

-As a time-waster during commercials on Saturday, I sent texts to all my friends whose teams were in the playoffs wishing them luck and what not (except you, Brad. You root for Seattle so I refuse to wish you good luck). My college friend who’s a big 49ers fan texted me back and said him and his fiancee had tickets to Book of Mormon on Saturday night so he was DVRing the game and hoping to watch it in its entirety when he got home. This brought up my third internal struggle of the day (the others being the “iconic player who leaves your team” conundrum, and the “should I root for Denver or Baltimore” dilemma)…when is it appropriate to DVR a game? Turns out, I’ve already hashed out this conflict in a past blog post, so really there’s no struggle. In my Pulitzer Prize-nominated blog post titled “Watching Sports on Tape Delay: A Stressful and Chaotic Practice,” after much debating and analysis, I ultimately said, “…the only appropriate time to watch games on tape delay is for early-round playoff games in all of the major sports.”

-This means my friend was not in the wrong for trying to make the DVR thing happen on Saturday night. Maybe the more important issue is why his soon-to-be father-in-law didn’t know to look ahead to all possible dates for 49er playoff games before selfishly buying him tickets to Book of Mormon for Christmas. The nerve of some people.

-Over the six hours at the bar on Saturday, I probably went to the bathroom 13 times (my bladder turns into an 86-year-old man when I drink). Most of those visits to the potty were uneventful. Here was the most eventful one: I walk into the two-urinal, one-sitdown toilet bathroom and grab the one open urinal. I hear a guy coughing a totally normal cough in the stall. The man standing next to me at the other urinal says, “Sounds like a crying dog in the desert…I hate that sound.” For those of you who know me and my non-confrontational approach to life, you know I just gave an awkward laugh and continued with my business. But then the awkward silence really got to me so I said, “Oh, have you heard a lof of dogs in the desert crying?” He responded, “Three tours in Afghanistan…you tend to hear lots of dogs in the desert crying out there. And then they shoot them and eat them.” Another awkward laugh/acknowledgment from me. And then he walked out of the bathroom. And, guys, get this…he didn’t wash his hands.

-Out of the 100+ texts I exchanged with people during the Saturday games (almost all of them football-related), my favorite one was from my brother who simply wrote, “BTW…mini eggs now in stores.” We weren’t in the middle of a text conversation about anything related to that. He just knows me and knows how to make my day. Cadbury mini-eggs are simply the greatest candy ever invented. That’s not up for debate.

-So the Ravens kicked that field goal in the 2nd OT around 5:35pm PT, and the NFC game was already under way. I can tell you that I threw myself out of the bar around 6:15pm. I think I can best convey to you why I took no notes on the Packers-49ers game and why I had to go home to finish watching through the following pictures:

I tried to tell myself I’d only drink beer so that I could make it through two games at the bar, but then as soon as I show up at 12:50pm, this is staring me down:

IMG_1982

No, not the Red Stag. The Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (aka my kryptonite). And then 3pm rolls around and it’s two-for-one happy hour on all drinks, so this happens:

IMG_1985

And then when I try to be a good sports writer and continue to take notes, this happens:

IMG_1991

That is literally the only “note” I took on the second game. If you’re having trouble navigating my writing, the top says “sober” and the bottom says “drunk.” I hate when I make graphs that have unclear values for the X and Y axes.

Let’s move on to Sunday’s games. Sober and at home means a lot more football notes and a lot less random stories:

-God damn Seattle. I started writing their eulogy about six different times during their game on Sunday morning. And since they were looking like a no-show for the first three quarters, my eulogy focused on how their 10-6 record (if you don’t count their fake week 3 win) was tied for the 8th best record in the league, and how the only playoff game they won was against a team literally playing offense without a quarterback. It was some of the happiest writing I’ve ever done. And then of course Seattle stormed back in the 4th quarter, even got what looked to be a game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds left, before Pete Carroll iced himself with a last-second timeout.

-So instead of that scathing burial for the Seahawks, I gotta give them credit. Two road playoff games in a row where they looked done after one quarter, and instead they fight until the very end. They were probably a little bit overrated by the time the playoffs started, but they’re going to be a playoff-caliber team for the next few years at least.

-Fine, a little bit of schadenfreude. It was awesome to see Richard Sherman get beat badly on one of the Atlanta long touchdowns, and then to see him continually go offsides on the extra point attempt until he got his team a penalty for doing it. That’s the kind of selfish asshole I knew he was all along.

-What a crazy final minute in this game. The craziest part, for me, was when color commentator Brian Billick suggested that the Seahawks kick a field goal and then try to get an onsides kick. They were down 27-21 with 44 seconds left when he said that.

-Glad to see Atlanta finally win one, but based on their near-meltdown in the 4th quarter, I think it’s perfectly appropriate that the 49ers are favored on the road.

-I’ll keep my thoughts on the Patriots-Texans game short because I was more than a little vocal during the game on Twitter. But the referees…I mean, c’mon. If that game is called down the middle, the Patriots win by at least 24. Every time the refs made an incorrect call against New England, I wrote “DICKING US OVER” in big letters in my diary. I’m counting four of those right now.

-It was a game where every big call went against the Patriots, and I’m not even saying that all those calls were wrong. Even the calls that could best be described as a coin flip went against them. Don’t think I won’t factor all of this in when I pick Patriots or Ravens later in the week.

-I would say there were two really outrageous calls from the officials. First was the unsportsmanlike penalty on Brandon Lloyd in the 2nd quarter when he threw the ball directly to the referee at the end of a play…you know, like the players are supposed to do. The ref wasn’t looking, it hit him in the arms and bounced away, and he was clearly embarrassed. That directly took four points off the board for the Patriots as they were forced to kick a field goal because of the 15-yard backup. The second, possibly more outrageous call, was with 10:20 to go in the 3rd quarter when Owen Daniels fumbled the ball after a -1 yard pass. The Patriots recovered on Houston’s 25 yard line. Game over. But then the refs decided Daniels’ forward progress had been stopped. Not even the biggest Texan defenders or Patriot haters can agree with that call. The refs cost New England either three or seven points with that call.

-The CBS broadcast pointed out how Belichick didn’t even react to Shane Vereen’s 33-yard touchdown catch in the 4th quarter that put the Patriots up 38-13. He looked over to see that it was a touchdown, and then turned back to his defense to continue strategizing. A lot of jokes were made about his lack of reaction, but my favorite was a tweet from David Portnoy, the guy who runs barstoolsports.com: “Pete Carroll would have been doing the lambada…Belichick is coaching.” It’s just a great joke that reminds us of the difference between a perceived “great coach” and a real great coach. And you can totally picture Carroll with an over-the-top celebration after that play like the cheerleader he is.

-So with 30 seconds left in the game and Houston down by 13, Phil Simms says the Texans should go for a long field goal and then recover and onsides kick to get a shot at the end zone. That makes two color commentators on Sunday who didn’t have a clue as to what the score was in the final minute of the game. Way to bring your C+ game to the greatest sports weekend of the year, boys.

I leave you with two more pictures that I enjoyed from the weekend…

What the hell is wrong with Sterling Sharpe?

IMG_1987

I’m talking mostly about the eyebrow…Did he get it shaved in the shape of the Minnesota Vikings’ helmet symbol on purpose?

And what species is this, exactly?

IMG_1989

This Weekend’s Can’t-Miss NFL Prop Bets (A Short Friday Read)

Yesterday I posted my Divisional Round picks, which you can review HERE. That blog post was just a tad longer than I expected so I needed to give you my favorite prop bets of the weekend in a separate post.

Just as a general warning, I should tell you it’s always best to bet small amounts on these prop bets because they’re mostly a crapshoot. The best thing to do is find some unlikely prop bet outcomes that have a lot of value based on the odds. An example of a prop bet that doesn’t offer value on either side is this:

How many total passing yards will Peyton Manning have this week?

  • Over 290.5 (-115)
  • Under 290.5 (-115)

Sure, with enough research and a little bit of luck, you can probably land on the right side of Manning’s passing yards against Baltimore. But there’s no value on either side. Vegas isn’t giving you good odds for all that hard work you have to do. And as you probably realize, it’s basically a coin flip. A coin flip that you have to pay an extra 15% for. Not good.

The type of prop bet you’re looking for is one with multiple answers where you can get big odds on an outcome that Vegas doesn’t think is very likely (but an outcome you’re smart enough to realize actually has a good shot). I’m not saying all of the following bets I’m making this weekend are like that, but the first couple are.

Here’s what I’m looking at for Round 2 of the playoffs:

Who will record the most Passing Yards this weekend?

  • Russell Wilson (15/1): Obviously I’m not making this bet thinking that Wilson’s typically more likely to have more passing yards than a Manning, Rodgers or Brady, but he’s got much more enticing odds than the usual suspects. My thinking is that Atlanta’s got the 23rd ranked pass defense, the game’s in a dome, and I could definitely see a high-scoring game on both sides (By the way, Andrew Luck had the most pass yards in the wildcard round with 288. In the playoffs when the weather’s colder and the defenses are better, it’s not like you have to find a 350-yard passer to win this prop).

Who will record the most Rushing Yards this weekend?

  • Knowshon Moreno (6/1): The rushing category doesn’t have nearly as much to offer in the way of longshots. The reason I like Moreno is because Baltimore’s run defense is pretty bad—they gave up 152 rushing yards at a 5.1 yards per attempt clip to Indy last week, even with the Ravens leading the entire game. It’s worth noting that Moreno ran for 115 yards (5.5 yards per attempt) against the Ravens in the week 15 matchup in Baltimore. I also think Denver might be nursing a 10-to-14-point lead late in the game, and you know the plan will be to feed Moreno the ball as much as possible at that point.

Will there be a missed Field Goal in the San Francisco-Green Bay game?

  • No (+110): Those cheeky bastards that run my gambling website…No other game this weekend has a missed FG prop bet. But no other game features the two worst field goal-kicking teams in the NFL either. That’s the draw of “yes” on this bet (at -150). Mason Crosby missed 12 of 33 field goal attempts for Green Bay this year (63.6% success rate), and David Akers missed 13 of 42 attempts for the 49ers (69%). San Francisco went so far as to sign Billy Cundiff on January 1st—although Jim Harbaugh just announced on Thursday that they’re sticking with Akers for this game. Anyway, I’m going with “no” on this bet because I’m hoping both coaches are smart enough not to give their kickers a chance to miss mid-to-long range field goals. Hopefully they’re only trotting these scrubs out for extra-point-lengthed field goal attempts. It also looks like the weather in San Francisco is going to be fine on Saturday. Call me an optimist, but I think the kickers actually do their jobs competently in this game!

Total TD Passes – Matt Ryan

  • Under 1.5 (+120): Two statistical reasons to make this bet: 1). Matt Ryan threw for either 0 or 1 touchdown passes in five of his eight home games this year. Astonishing, I agree. 2). Seattle has only allowed 15 total passing touchdowns this season, one of the best marks in football. If Seattle’s as good as advertised and beats the Falcons on Sunday, couldn’t you see Ryan being held to some pretty awful stats?

And finally, here are two prop bets that have nothing to do with the playoffs, but seemed interesting enough to bet:

Will RGIII start Week 1 of the 2013 Regular Season?

  • Yes (+150): Seems like a 50/50 proposition right now so if Vegas wants to pay me an extra 50% to be an optimist, I’ll take it. Everything coming out of the Redskins organization says that Griffin will be ready by September. Again, this isn’t the type of bet you put your life savings on, but it’s worth a little wager.

Will Bruce Arians be a Head Coach of the NFL for the 2013 Season?

  • Yes (+110): No, jackass, you don’t make this bet thinking that Chuck Pagano’s gonna have a relapse that forces Arians to take over the Colts again. You bet this because there’s a minimum of four teams interested in Arians right now. His stock will never be higher after stepping in and leading the Colts to one of the most improbable regular seasons in NFL history. He’s gotta strike while the iron’s hot, right? And the Colts VP of Player Personnel just took the job as GM in San Diego, and rumor has it Arians would love to work under him. You should bet this before they pull it off the board. Hurry. Free money.

That’s it. Enjoy this weekend’s games. And look for me involved in a one-man riot on the LA local news if the Patriots somehow lose on Sunday night.

NFL Round 2 Preview: Highlighting My Most Asinine Comments Over the Past 4 Months

No matter how much I beg and plead, my readers tend to stay away from commenting on my spectacular blog posts. But I throw in a quick mention of watching last Sunday’s football games at home with no pants on, and suddenly everyone comes out of the woodwork to make a comment. The common theme in those reader comments was “Can you combine watching the games at a bar with watching at home and just go to a bar with no pants on?”

I actually considered buying a kilt and posting a picture of me wearing it at the bar this weekend, but that would have necessitated me buying a kilt, and all my money is currently tied up in dog food futures (you only get that joke if you read my incredible dog update post from earlier this week).

It does seem like it’ll be more of the same for me this weekend: Watching Saturday’s games at a bar, fattening up on Rocco’s Tavern’s white pizza and buffalo wings (and 2-for-1 drinks from 3pm-7pm). And then watching Sunday’s games at home, with my girlfriend convincing me to eat kale as a main course to balance out the previous day’s binging. Also, Sunday is a better day to watch at home this weekend in particular because if the Patriots somehow lose, I can only do so much damage at my apartment compared to being at a bar.

After a 1-3 showing in my picks for the Wildcard Round, you’re probably expecting me to be confident in a 4-0 week in the Divisional Round. But I’m not. You see, even though my regular season record was a money-making boon for anyone who followed my lead, I still only hit on 57% of my picks. I’m not expecting to magically start hitting at a 75% clip. If anything, the playoffs are harder because there’s not nearly as many mismatches in talent. With only seven games left in the playoffs, I essentially need to go 5-2 or better against the spread to get to my expected winning percentage. So I guess what I’m really trying to say is I’m guaranteeing a 2-2 record or better this week.

Rather than simply list each game and give you my prediction, I spent all of Thursday morning re-reading every word of every football post I’ve written this year so I could provide you with some of the most accurate and inaccurate things I said about the remaining eight teams over the course of the season. I’m not one of those writers who’s going to try to hide from his ridiculously off-base comments from earlier in the year.

Baltimore @ Denver (-10) – Saturday, 1:30pm PT

Comments I made about Denver throughout the season:

  • Prior to week 2’s game against Atlanta, I said the Falcons were “considerably more talented on all sides of the ball.”
  • After week 3, I said that Peyton Manning might be a candidate for the first quarterback benched due to ineffectiveness this season…Sadly, I was only half joking at the time.
  • Right before a week 6 matchup between Denver and San Diego, I was still calling the AFC West a crapshoot and that the division winner was a coin flip between the Broncos and Chargers.
  • In my week 9 picks, I took Cincinnati over Denver because I wasn’t convinced the Broncos could win on the road. Including that game, they won their final six road games of the year, and more importantly, they don’t have to worry about being on the road in the playoffs anyway.

Comments I made about Baltimore throughout the season:

  • Before their week 3 matchup, I said that the Ravens and Patriots were the two most evenly-matched teams in the NFL. Are we heading for a rematch of those two teams in Foxboro next week?
  • I called Baltimore a sinking ship before their week 9 game against Cleveland. Including that game, they finished the year 5-4, and now they’re back in the second round of the playoffs. I guess technically the ship didn’t fully sink, but it’s been taking on water for nearly two months.
  • In week 11, I picked the underdog Steelers with Byron Leftwich as their starting QB to cover the 3.5-point spread at home to Baltimore because, “The Ravens aren’t good enough on the road even if they’re going up against Leftwich,” I wrote at the time. Sure enough, Baltimore eeked out a three-point win. If they were that sketchy on the road against a backup QB, how the hell are they going to beat Manning in Denver this weekend?
  • In my week 13 review post, I wrote, “If Atlanta is the NFC’s least-scary playoff team, then Baltimore is the AFC’s version of that…and if they fall to the 3rd or 4th seed and have to play on the road after the wildcard round, their season is over.” (Finally a prediction I might have gotten right.)

It seems like I was all over Baltimore as a somewhat fraudulent team the entire season, but it took me a long time to come around on Denver as a serious contender. So where do I land on this weekend’s game?

Ten points is a lot. And there’s absolutely no way I’m backing both 10-point favorites this weekend. The Ravens aren’t great on the road, they’re still a lot less healthy than Denver is. They have a distinct disadvantage at quarterback. And it would be tough to find a person who enjoys playing on the road in Denver. Despite all that, I’m picking Baltimore to cover the 10 points.

Sure Denver routed the Ravens just four weeks ago in Baltimore. But that Ravens team had a couple fixable things go against them that day (like the Joe Flacco red zone pick-six right before halftime), and they had a bunch of injuries specifically on defense and their offensive line. And what if the Ravens’ far superior special teams puts up a touchdown? That’ll be a huge swing. I’m not calling for the upset. I just think 10 points is a lot, and even if it’s not a close game, I can see the Broncos taking their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter and letting up the backdoor cover to the Ravens.

The Pick: Denver 27, Baltimore 20

Green Bay @ San Francisco (-3) – Saturday, 5:00pm PT

Comments I made about San Francisco throughout the season:

  • In a preseason post (and then reiterated just before week 1), I mentioned that they’d probably struggle against the elite offenses of the NFL. The two problems with that statement were: 1). I said Green Bay, Detroit, the Giants, Chicago and New England were all elite offenses, and 2). The 49ers went 4-1 against those teams anyway.
  • After that horrible loss to the Giants in week 6, I told 49er fans that their only shot of getting to the Super Bowl was if some other NFC East team stepped up and kept the Giants out of the playoffs (score one for the “expert”!).
  • After week 7, I wrote that “Jim Harbaugh is turning into my least-favorite coach outside the greater New York/New Jersey area because he hasn’t accomplished a thing in the NFL, and yet he reacts to every official’s call as if he’s getting completely screwed.” I actually called him the Philip Rivers of head coaches, and I stand by those comments. He’s such a pompous asshole.

Comments I made about Green Bay throughout the season:

  • I worried after week 1 that Green Bay was this year’s team that looked at the NFL landscape in the offseason, remembered that they won 15 games in 2011, realized everyone was picking them to go to the Super Bowl, and decided they didn’t need to get ready for the regular season.
  • In my week 3 predictions, I said Green Bay would win by a touchdown in Seattle but it would be a close game the whole way. Of course, I was right, but the real reason I bring this up is because that replacement referee debacle isn’t getting any airtime this week. You do realize if the refs hadn’t screwed the Packers on that Monday night in September, they’d be hosting the 49ers and not the other way around, right? That’s a HUGE difference in the playoff fortunes for these two teams.
  • After their close win at home against New Orleans in week 4, I wrote: “It’s been a very uninspiring first quarter of the season from Green Bay. I’m officially lowering my expectations for the 2012 Packers to ‘playoff team that’s unlikely to make a deep run.'” (could still be true!)
  • Following their week 8 win over Jacksonville, I worried that Mike McCarthy was outcoaching himself because he kept calling for these weird fake punts and surprise onside kicks in recent weeks. The fake punt in that Jacksonville game was the strangest of them all because it was on a 4th-and-4 play near midfield, so why would you try to pick up that 1st down via a pass play from your punter when you have the reigning MVP  as your quarterback? I continue to think McCarthy is a bad coach who’s deficiencies are still being hidden by his great QB.

So on one side we have the Packers, who everyone wants to anoint as this year’s version of the 2010 Packers, and on the other side we have a well-rested 49ers team, who was easily the biggest beneficiary of that Green Bay screw job in Seattle. I get all the reasons people are picking Green Bay. They’re finally healthy, they have the best quarterback in football at the helm, they’ve won tough road playoff games before, they’re a more fun team to choose than San Francisco.

But here’s my counter to all that: Mike McCarthy really is a bad coach and that’ll rear its ugly head sometime soon (don’t forget he tried to throw a challenge flag on an automatically-reviewed play only a few weeks after Jim Schwartz made that boneheaded move famous). Mason Crosby has been an unmitigated disaster as a field goal kicker all year, and that’ll rear its ugly head sometime soon (Part of me hopes Green Bay’s stubbornness in holding on to an obviously unreliable kicker becomes their ultimate undoing). Jim Harbaugh, as much as I hate the guy, is a great coach, and he’s been breaking down Green Bay film for the past two weeks (don’t kid yourself, he didn’t spend an ounce of energy last week looking at any other possible NFC opponent). As good as Rodgers is, his offensive line has been Pittsburgh Steeler-esque all year, and a team like San Francisco might really make them pay.

I’m taking the 49ers and feeling bad that the Packers didn’t get a chance to play this game on their home turf.

The Pick: San Francisco 26, Green Bay 21

P.S. I realize I didn’t mention Justin Smith’s injury, which could be a huge disadvantage for San Francisco if he’s not on the field and at least at 75-80% of his normal self. But no one seems to know his status for Saturday so I don’t feel like hemming and hawing and saying “if he’s healthy, I like the 49ers. If he’s not, I like the Packers.” I’m just gonna man up and take the 9ers regardless.

Seattle @ Atlanta (-3) – Sunday, 10:00am PT

Comments I made about Atlanta throughout the season:

  • Before week 3 I was calling Atlanta the “class of the NFC” and saying that they were “better than the best of the AFC.”
  • Fast forward 10 weeks, and in my week 13 review post I said the Falcons were a lock for 13-3, but look exactly like the ’03 Kansas City Chiefs, who went 13-3 and got a first round bye, but did so in such unconvincing fashion that nobody gave them a chance in their first playoff game (which they lost to Indianapolis).

Those were my only standout notes about the Falcons all year. I was overly impressed with them early on, and then I opened my eyes and saw how mediocre they really are beyond their win-loss record.

Comments I made about Seattle throughout the season:

  • After the Seahawks lost to Arizona in week 1 (and the combination of John Skelton and Kevin Kolb), I was extremely confident in picking Dallas to win at Seattle in week 2 (Seattle won by 20).
  • In my week 5 predictions, I said, “Maybe when Seattle loses to Carolina this week people will stop considering them as one of the decent NFC teams.”
  • After the Patriots’ week 6 loss in Seattle, I was very pissed off about Richard Sherman’s unnecessary trash-talking and I wrote: “…do I root for the Seahawks to make an improbable Super Bowl run just so Brady can throw five touchdowns to the guy Sherman’s covering in that game? Or do I root for Seattle to revert back to the 6-10 team I know they are so that Sherman’s trash-talking fades into obscurity? Tough call, but I do love the idea of New England putting up 63 on Seattle in the Super Bowl. Go Seahawks!”
  • In my week 8 picks, I referred to Russell Wilson as “an awful rookie quarterback.”
  • And in my week 12 prediction of Seattle at Miami, I said, “This is the game where after it ends, people go ‘oh yeah, how did I not remember Russell Wilson is garbage on the road?’” (OK, so perhaps I was a little harsh on Mr. Wilson and the Seahawks most of the year.)

All signs point to Seattle in this game, right? Has a #1 seed ever gotten as little respect as the Falcons are getting? (in my Kansas City comparison above, the Chiefs were actually the #2 seed that year, so it doesn’t count.) I’m actually a little surprised that the line hasn’t moved down to -2.5 or -2. Part of me wants to take the Falcons purely based on the fact that almost nobody seems to be giving them a chance.

But it’s hard to ignore how impressive the Seahawks have been, particularly in the second half of the season. They have the superior defense, superior running game, superior special teams and possibly superior coaching. Based on recent weeks, they may even have the better passing game at this point. I always thought whoever came out of the Seattle-Washington wildcard matchup would beat Atlanta and move on to the NFC Championship game. And even though Atlanta went 7-1 at home, five of those wins came by 6, 2, 3, 6 and 4-point margins (you probably remember their struggles against Carolina, Oakland and Arizona at home in particular). Not exactly an intimidating presence in the Georgia Dome. Gotta go with Seattle, keeping my dream alive of the Patriots putting up 63 on them in the Super Bowl.

The Pick: Seattle 24, Atlanta 20

Houston @ New England (-10) – Sunday, 1:30pm PT

Comments I made about New England throughout the season:

  • After what I saw out of them in week 1, I predicted the Patriots would have a top-five run defense…granted it’s never a good idea to base a season-long prediction on one game against the Titans, but the Pats did finish 9th in rushing yards allowed/game, 6th in rushing yards allowed/attempt and 1st in forced fumbles…close enough, right?
  • Before their week 6 game against Seattle, I said, “The Patriots aren’t winning a close game in Seattle…they aren’t good at winning those close games anymore. If they don’t have a nine-point lead in the final five minutes, they lose…Seattle either wins a close one or they get smoked.” So what happened? The Pats were up 13 with 7:30 to go, and of course they lost by one. For the record, I still hate the Patriots in any close game the rest of the way
  • After week 10’s close call against the Bills, I said that’s it’s going to be tough for me to have faith in New England as a Super Bowl frontrunner the rest of the year, and if I was re-doing my power rankings at that time, I’d probably drop them below Baltimore and Pittsburgh (talk about a pessimistic sports fan).

Comments I made about Houston throughout the season:

  • At the end of September I said a Matt Schaub injury might be the only thing that could derail Houston’s bid to get a top-two seed in the AFC (Actually, it took some significant injuries on the defensive side and some ineptitude in the final month to derail that).
  • Before their week 9 game, I mentioned that Houston was flying under the radar and “people forget how complete of a team they are.”
  • Just five weeks ago, when the Texans were about to play at New England, I was adamant that the Patriots should only be a two-point favorite, instead of the posted four-point spread. I said I’d be stunned if that game wasn’t decided by a field goal…and now we’re looking at a 10-point spread for this weekend?

If the line on this game was New England -6.5, I wouldn’t even feel the need to explain why I was picking the Patriots. That’s how sure I am that the Patriots win this game. But just like the Denver-Baltimore game, 10 points is a lot to bank on in the playoffs.

If you’re looking back to the Patriots’ week 13 win against Houston (which I’m currently watching on NFL Network’s “NFL Replay”), you’ll probably say to yourself, “The Patriots had some extremely lucky bounces and generous calls from the referees in that game.” And it’s true. Patriot running backs fumbled twice on their way to the end zone, and both times one of their teammates bailed them out with the fumble recovery. But you cannot overlook the fact that the Pats dropped 42 on the Texans without the services of Gronk. That’s the biggest X factor of this game in my opinion: New England is probably the healthiest team out of the eight remaining playoff contenders.

Let’s pretend for a minute that neither the Texans nor the Patriots running games have much of an effect on Sunday (a definite possibility). Which passing offense do you like more? The one where a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback runs the best hurry-up attack in the NFL, working with as many as five wide receivers, or whatever the hell kind of passing game the Texans run?

I’m taking the Patriots, but definitely expecting to come away with a push.

The Pick: New England 34, Houston 23

 

Don’t freak out just because you don’t see any Prop Bet advice from me in this column. We’re already at 3,000 words today. Figured I’d give you a break. Check back on Friday for my favorite Prop Bets for this weekend’s games (and you should follow my advice on these…the Prop Bet wins last weekend are the only reason I walked away down a mere $0.70 on all my betting combined).

The Ultimate Molly Update: A Dog’s Life in Words and Pictures

I saw Django Unchained in the movie theater today, and the scene where three angry dogs kill a slave by ripping all his limbs off made me think it was time for a Molly update on the blog. The first thing you need to know is that Molly hasn’t yet ripped a person’s limbs off, and also, she’s not a racist dog. She’d just as likely rip a White, Asian or Mexican person limb-to-limb as she would a Black person.

Now the first thing people always want to know when it comes to any good Molly update is her size. I could tell you that we just weighed her yesterday and she came in at 76lbs. But that doesn’t really tell you how she compares to when we first got her or at any other milestone in her life. A smarter man than me could set up a professional-looking graph in Excel to show how her size has changed as she’s gotten older. A man of my average intellect opts for the handwritten graph:

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Or, if numbers isn’t your game, this might work better for you.

Here’s what “Molly being held by Julie” looked like as a two-and-a-half-month-old puppy:

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And here’s what “Molly being held by Julie” looks like as of January 9th (seven-and-a-half-month-old puppy):

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A couple more points on Molly’s size:

  • We’ve officially changed her name to “Clifford.” Please use her correct new name the next time you see her.
  • If that extremely accurate graph is to be trusted, it seems like her growth rate is finally slowing down.
  • This blog post is being dedicated to Julie’s formerly good back. Hopefully reading this post on her phone at the chiropractor’s tomorrow will cheer her up at least a little.

If you were only reading this to check in on Molly’s weight, you can stop now. For the rest of you, here are some more fun and/or alarming Molly tidbits for your reading pleasure:

-One thing we’ve been particularly pleased about in our five months with Molly is that she really hasn’t done any damage to any of our possessions. You always read these horror stories about the dog that eats all the contents of a trash can or an entire TV. But as happy as we’ve been about this, we’re also smart enough to realize she hasn’t destroyed anything because she’s really never had the chance. As a dog, when you spend every alone moment inside a crate and your Dad’s an unemployed writer who’s home 24/7, you really don’t get many chances to go to town on the prohibited household goods. So what happened on New Year’s Eve? Well, we went to a party until about 1am. When we came home, we put Molly on our bed to let her sleep with us for the night. She got restless at some point and decided to jump off the bed. Usually this wakes me up and I guide her into her crate for the rest of the night, but for some strange reason I was in a deeper state of sleep than usual that night. At 4am I woke up to find Molly innocently curled up on the living room couch, another favorite sleeping spot of hers. Of course all the innocence and “oh isn’t that the cutest!” feelings disappeared quickly when I looked on the ground and saw this crime scene:

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A few more thoughts on those pictures:

  • Julie says that was an expensive shoe. But when I asked her what we should do with the matching shoe that Molly didn’t eat, she said to throw it away. So expensive could those shoes really be?
  • I really do think Molly’s happy with her life, but can we really be sure she wasn’t purposely whittling that brush handle down to a sharp point to use as a weapon on me and Julie?
  • When we were at the Vet yesterday and they were trying to figure out what might be wrong with Molly’s stomach (more on that in a minute), they asked us several times if we were sure she couldn’t have gotten into something she shouldn’t have and swallowed something that could be blocking her digestive system. Somehow this entire New Year’s incident escaped our memory as we shook our heads and said there was no way she could have eaten anything off limits.

-Speaking of destroying things…Over the five months of having her, we’ve given Molly an array of toys (and a plethora…a plethora seems like a good word to describe the more than 30 toys Molly has at her disposal). In her first three-and-a-half months with us, Molly almost never destroyed any of her toys. Some of her older toys would inevitably get small holes in them from natural wear and tear, but she always seemed to play with them gently enough. But over these past seven weeks, Molly has turned into a homicidal maniac when it comes to her stuffed-animal toys. She’s out for blood and she’s taking no prisoners. Here are the toys she’s no longer allowed to play with because the risk of her demolishing them and eating all the stuffing is just too high:

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And the close-up:

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I’m pretty sure all the Toy Story characters would commit suicide if they saw Molly in action for 10 seconds.

-And here’s Molly’s new, smaller array of toys to choose from:

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Not nearly as exciting as the stuffed animals at times, but my dog budget doesn’t include “replace decimated stuffed animal daily” as a line item.

-So I mentioned something being wrong with Molly’s stomach. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say Molly hasn’t really been “regular” for the past six weeks. The beginning of this situation coincided with a two-day period where Molly refused to eat the dog food that she’d been happily devouring for the better part of four months up to that point. I seriously thought she was just playing a game of psychological warfare with us and was holding out for better food (i.e. human food). But the Vet’s theory was that Molly’s puppy food might be suddenly too rich for her and it was time to switch to an adult food. But before we could do that, we had to get her back to normal again by putting her on a bland diet of wet food (basically setting the reset button on her stomach). Long story short, we’ve been playing around with so many different foods for the past month that we could literally run a black market pet store out of our apartment:

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And of course right before that first Vet visit where they told us to take her off the puppy food, we had just bought a new 30lb bag of the damn puppy food (pictured in the unmarked plastic container above). So if anyone wants to buy about 27.5lbs of puppy food, I’m willing to make a deal. I will not give it to you for free because I’m bitter. I’d rather throw it in the trash.

-Oh and the latest update is that the Vet no longer thinks the stomach issues are related to the type of food Molly’s eating. No, now they think it could be a bacteria/parasite/alien species living in her intestines. So on top of the food surplus, we could now start shipping most dog meds to you as part of our black market operation:

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We’re one more Vet visit away from having to get one of those pill organizers that says all the days of the week on it that old and/or pregnant people use to keep track of their med schedules. Our puppy is an 88-year-old woman.

-And finally, let’s end on a lighter note. If by some magical way Molly was able to talk to us for just 15 seconds, saying only one thing and never being able to talk again, I’d like to think she’d spend that time reassuring Julie that she’s never once been cold when Julie thinks she’s cold. She would say, “Look, I don’t need blankets, extra cuddling or a space heater pointed directly at me. It’s science, Mom. My body temperature is three degrees higher than yours. If you’re not cold, rest assured I’m not cold. I probably should have spent this time telling you guys what it means when I bark, pull on my leash or chew through my toys, but I just needed to clear this temperature thing up once and for all.”

So that’s the latest in Molly’s life. If you’ll excuse me, Julie just yelled from the bedroom to bring her all the blankets we have in the house.

NFL WildCard Weekend In Review: About As Much Fun As Week 4 of the Preseason

I had such high hopes for this weekend, and it really couldn’t have started off much better for me. On Friday afternoon, the only friend I’ve made in LA (who promptly moved to San Antonio three weeks after we met) was back in town and took me flying in this plane:

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I was expecting a leisurely tour of the Malibu coast and the Hollywood hills, but I forgot this guy was in the Air Force and he totally pulled out some Blue Angels shit on me. I’m talking flipping the plane and flying upside down, doing full vertical loops, stalling the engine and free-falling for a few seconds. And according to him, we hit 5g’s at one point. I’m not sure what that means except that 5g’s is apparently when your chest starts to feel like it’s caving in on itself. I guess I should have suspected something more intense than “leisurely siteseeing” when he made me put a parachute on before we got in the plane.

So yeah, coolest thing I’ve done so far in LA. Great way to start the weekend. Thought it would continue to go up from there.

Fast forward 54 hours later and I’m sitting here trying to make sense of a shitty weekend of football. After a regular season where it seemed like underdogs were always covering and even winning outright more than they ever have, we had a Wildcard Round that saw exactly 0 underdogs cover the spread. The “closest” game of the weekend was Houston’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, a game in which neither team looked like they belonged in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, out of the eight teams that played this weekend, I’d say three-and-a-half of them actually looked like playoff-caliber teams: Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and kind of Washington (they get half credit because with a hobbled or non-existent RGIII, they would never look like a playoff team). That’s what made this first round so bad…it wasn’t just that three of four games were decided by double digits. It’s that the majority of the teams didn’t bother showing up.

In my playoff preview blog, I noted that usually two or three games in the first round were blowouts…I shoulda known to stick with the formula. But this year was different! This was the year of the underdog! Ugh.

I also wrote that all of this weekend’s favorites had “flaws and warning signs that make picking the underdogs attractive.” What I didn’t take into account, apparently, is that the underdogs had even more flaws than their counterparts. You can accuse me of being bitter all you want, but I’m telling you I’m still not impressed with any of the teams that won this weekend.

In terms of how I viewed the games, I decided to camp out at a local bar for both games on Saturday, and then I spent Sunday at home. I thought it would be interesting to watch one set of games around dozens of drunk football fans and the other two games at home staying sober and responsible. I’ll let you decide which venue fostered more insightful and hilarious analysis. Let’s recap the weekend in chronological order:

Houston 19, Cincinnati 13: “Ross Regrets His New Theory Only 15 Minutes After Forming It”

-Julie and I got to the bar at 1:10 PT, and we were seated next to three guys who were debating which player on Minnesota was the best….Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson or Christian Ponder. Unfortunately we were not able to get our seats moved.

-Stealing the spotlight from this first game was a text I got from Nkilla saying “Whoa! Supposedly Joe Webb starting for Minny tonight.” You should know that Julie doesn’t give a shit about football. She only agreed to come with me to this bar because she has an iPad and can Pinterest the shit out of things while I watch the games. But every week, I let her make one crazy bet for me. It’s always a 10-12 team parlay where she bets $1 to win something like $2,500. Of course she’s never hit one of these bets and she knows it’s a super-longshot, but that doesn’t stop her from going into every Sunday morning thinkin she’s gonna finally win. Anyway, when I told her there was a chance Minnesota’s backup QB was playing, she decided it was unfair if my gambling website doesn’t give us our money back on the bet she made. If they won’t give it back, they should at least let her take the updated odds because it’s totally unfair she took Minnesota and didn’t know this Joe Webb guy was playing. I felt like I was giving my child a “sometimes life’s not fair” talking-to when I explained that her bet couldn’t be changed.

-Right on cue at kickoff, Julie forgot all about the screw job on her bet because she was deep into an article she found on google titled “Jennier Hundson’s Lasagna Recipe.” Thank god for that iPad + WiFi.

-Seven minutes into the game and my first bet pays off…A $4 win for predicting the first score of the game would be a field goal, not a touchdown. Things were really looking up for me at this point.

-Here’s the brilliant theory I came up with during the first quarter when they showed Andy Dalton’s regular season stats: Dalton had a 62% completion rate and 27 touchdowns, good for third most in the AFC. People must be criticizing him unnecessarily. I bet he’s a much better QB than people give him credit for.”

-The very next note in my notebook says, “1:30 left in 2nd quarter…We may be seeing the two worst QBs in the playoffs right now—both missing throw after throw to wide open guys.”

-You gotta hand it to Dalton. He knows how to disprove a misguided football theory like he’s been doing it for years.

-It’s always frustrating to have bet on a team that has negative total passing yards at the end of the first half. It really felt like Cincy was doing its best Jets impersonation on Saturday.

-I really didn’t have too many other insightful notes from the rest of this game. For some reason I called J.J. Watt “J.J. Twat” at one point and either Julie really loved it or was just extremely bored because she picked up that nickname and ran with it.

-So Houston won 19-13. The best description for how it went down is to say that Houston escaped with a win. They escaped with a victory at home against a quarterback who threw 30 times for 127 yards. Just try to remember how ugly of a win it was when you’re talking yourself into Houston +9.5 over New England this week.

Green Bay 24, Minnesota 10: “Happy Hour Makes Joe Webb’s Passes Even Funnier Than They Already Are”

-I won’t quote her word for word, but let’s just say when Julie found out Joe Webb wasn’t white she was a lot more confident in her original “Minnesota to win” bet.

-Now because this game didn’t start until 5pm and Rocco’s Tavern starts their happy hour at 3pm, there are some notes I wrote down that either don’t make sense or can’t really be defended as necessary, but I’ll share some anyway. Whenever you see a quote with no other comment alongside it, you’ll know I’m just quoting what I wrote in my notebook.

-“Julie doesn’t like farts.”

-Before Minnesota’s first drive was even over, Julie was referring to Webb as “Junior” in the most condescending way possible. As in, “If fuckin’ Junior knew how to complete a four-yard pass, we’d have a chance to score at some point.”

-Not quite as funny or replay-worthy as Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble against New England but equally pathetic was when Joe Webb stepped back onto a lying-on-the-ground Clay Matthews and essentially sacked himself. Self-safeties were patented in 2006 by Dan Orlovsky (Detroit QB who more than once stepped out of the back of the endzone while trying to complete a pass). I think Sanchez and Webb will have to battle it out over the next couple years to see who ultimately gets credit for creating the self-sack.

-Speaking of the soon-to-be highest-paid backup QB in the NFL, I actually wrote in the second quarter, “If only the Vikings had Mark Sanchez tonight…”

-Last March in Vegas, my friend Ted started rooting hard against VCU during their first round game against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament and initially I had no idea why. He had no affiliation with either school, he hadn’t placed a bet on either team, and it was a meaningless game lost in the shuffle of the more than 40 games we’d be seeing in a three-day span. But then I realized he was rooting against them because there were a few douchebags standing near us who were going a little too crazy with every VCU basket. And one of the guys was wearing a VCU cape. If people annoy you enough, you’re bound to start hoping the worst for them. And that’s what happened when the Packer fans got a little too obnoxious at Rocco’s on Saturday night. I had picked and bet on Green Bay, I knew they were a 100% lock to win, but I started cheering for Minnesota like I was Adrian Peterson’s nephew.

-Not sure if I was drunk or just lonely and bored (Julie had left the bar at this point), but I must have watched this clip on my phone about 37 times during the commercials: http://fauxjohnmadden.lockerdome.com/media/104485898

-I know Green Bay took care of business and won by 14, but with one minute remaining in the 2nd quarter, they were only up 10-3. Isn’t that embarrassing when you’re going up against a team being led by Joe “Junior” Webb?

-And by the way, there were so many whispers throughout the season as Christian Ponder struggled that Webb should get a chance to start. Would the people who were planting that seed please own up to it and explain yourself? Ponder seems to be about 30 times better than Webb, right?

-At halftime I started to think about the Bears, Cowboys and Giants, and I got sad for them. Any one of those teams could have done better against Green Bay. Considering the Vikings had six total passing yards in the first half, I’m pretty sure Oakland, Jacksonville and Kansas City all could have done better than Minnesota too.

-At this point in the night, I’m drunk, bored and easily distracted. So I start writing my website name “will-blog-for-food.com” on every coaster at the bar. I seriously grabbed a stack of at least 90 coasters and started giving myself free advertising. One guy called me out on it and asked what my blog was all about. Here was my big chance to sell a stranger on the concept of my blog. And I responded, “Oh, it’s about sports and other stuff.” Boom! Concept sold! I will say that I had a ton of page views today (Sunday), a weekend day where I didn’t post a blog…maybe the bartender didn’t throw all those coasters out. Maybe, just maybe, my blog is the buzz all over town.

-“24-3 wth 9:25 left in 3rd quarter…I farted, and everyone is looking at me suspiciously.” (I wonder if that’s because people could see over my shoulder as I wrote “I farted” in my notebook.)

-“Joe Webb is like me throwing a football right now, minus 40 yards.” (What does that mean? That he’s so bad a drunk-Ross could throw the ball as good as him but 40 yards farther down field? Or that I could throw the ball like him in my drunken state, but my passes would be 40 yards shorter? Don’t know, but it must have been the basis for a good joke in my head at the time.)

-I decided to leave the bar with 10:55 to go in the 4th quarter…a completely unprecedented move, but I was motivated by the fact that Julie was at home making lasagna for dinner.

-So I got home, bugged her to bring me a beer as I sat on the couch watching the end of the game, and the next thing I know I wake up three hours later with an unopened beer in my hand and no lasagna in my stomach. I bet I was as confused at that moment as Joe Webb was when they told him he’d be starting a playoff game in Green Bay.

Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 9: “Where Sober Football Turned Out To Be Just As Boring As Drunk Football”

-So because of Saturday’s lackluster performances from three of the four quarterbacks, and since Aaron Rodgers really didn’t have to throw much in the 2nd half of Green Bay’s win, I went into Sunday with a great chance of winning my “Andrew Luck to throw for the most yards out of every QB this weekend” bet. Maybe Sunday would be all about redemption after a rough Saturday.

-I turn on the TV and the first thing I hear is that Bruce Arians, the Colts’ offensive coordinator and interim Head Coach for most of the season, was rushed to the hospital only a couple hours before kickoff. So Christian Ponder’s injury ruins the Vikings’ chances for an upset (or at least a cover) and now this Arians thing is gonna do the same to Indy?

-I really wish there was a way to hold announcers like Phil Simms accountable for the bullshit they actually say during games. In the first quarter, Simms said, “Joe Flacco is as dangerous of a passer as there is in the NFL.” But hasn’t it been proven over his five-year career that Flacco is actually not one of the more dangerous passers in the league? Unless I’m just being negative and we really should consider a guy who finished the year 12th in passer rating, 15th in touchdowns and 19th in completion percentage one of the more dangerous quarterbacks. I just hate how he can throw that vague comment out there and not have to provide any stats to support it.

-But I should just accept the fact that announcers are human too, and like the rest of us, they have biases and favorite teams. It should have been obvious Simms was on the Baltimore bandwagon when he was looking at a replay of a clear facemasking penalty that a Baltimore player committed on Vick Ballard and said, “I didn’t see a facemask there.” Really? Ballard’s head just did a complete 360 because he taught himself that trick and thought it was a good time to try it out?

-That replay of Roger Goodell embracing Ray Lewis with a big teary hug before the game just made me angry. Of course Goodell would go out of his way to sabotage a very likeable Saints team and then go and fondle one of the biggest douchebags in all of football. I love that he doesn’t even try to associate himself with likeable people.

-So Baltimore wins a very unexciting game (theme of the weekend!). But do Ravens fans feel good about it? Indy controlled the ball for 15 more minutes and had only 22 less total yards of offense than Baltimore. What really hurt the Colts the most today was the 27 times their wide receivers either slipped on the grass or dropped a pass that hit them in the hands. That was the #1 reason for their loss in my opinion.

-On the bright side, I would indeed end up winning my “Luck for most passing yards” bet. After three games, I was still treading water with my bets.

-Am I rooting for Baltimore next week against Denver? Of course I am…if they somehow pull it off and the Patriots beat Houston, then New England would host the Championship game. Do the Ravens have a remote shot of doing it? Nope.

Seattle 24, Washington 14: “This Time I Think Julie Has A Point, We Should Get Our Money Back”

-More specifically, I think Mike Shanahan should have to pay reparations to anyone who bet on Washington Sunday night. Sure, there’s no guarantee that three quarters of Kirk Cousins would have been enough to beat Seattle, but in hindsight wouldn’t you love to have seen Cousins get a chance?

-RGIII couldn’t have been operating at more than 50% for most of the game…every single person watching the game knew it, so why didn’t Shanahan? And it’s not like he would have had to go with Joe Webb if he pulled Griffin from the game. He has Cousins, who’s shown he’s more than capable of keeping a team in the game.

-At least this game caused me to write “2:08pm on Sunday, the first time I’ve been happy with football all weekend.” It was right after the ‘Skins took a 14-0 lead.

-Is it weird to gush about how much I love watching the Redskins offense considering they almost exclusively run the ball?

-Washington’s offensive line possibly sneaky-best line among all the playoff teams?

-It wasn’t even into the second quarter before I wrote “the refs have lost control of the game.” Good to see Seattle embracing the reputation I gave them earlier this year as a bunch of arrogant bastards.

-In my previous blog post, I said there were two factors causing me to pick Washington in this game: 1). RGIII’s specialness and 2). The Washington crowd. Well the knee injury was so bad so early in the game that RG didn’t have a chance to be special, and the crowd could never get fully into it even when the Redskins were up 14-0 because they were too busy holding their collective breath every time Griffin planted on his bad leg.

-I honestly think a healthy RGIII buries the Seahawks in that second quarter.

-Not that it takes the sting off this loss too much, but it was great to see Trent Williams shove Richard Sherman in the face after the game. I like seeing that Sherman’s peers think he’s as big of a piece of shit as I think he is. That’s some nice vindication.

-By the way, as unimpressed as I was with Seattle in this game, my initial thought is that they can handle Atlanta pretty easily next week. The things that Washington did in the first quarter to build that 14-0 lead—run the option with a mobile QB, run the ball for big chunks of yards, get great offensive line play across the board—Atlanta does almost none of that well. Looks like Seattle will luck their way through the first two rounds and into the NFC Championship game.

So there you have it…No upsets, a 1-3 record for my picks this week, and all because of injuries to Christian Ponder, Bruce Arians and RGIII. I’m convinced we would have seen three underdogs cover if those three guys had been able to fulfill their normal roles this weekend.

Feel free to comment on whether you enjoyed my Saturday analyis more (at the bar, drunk by 7pm) or my Sunday analysis (sober, at home, no pants on). You can help me determine how to “enjoy” next week’s games.

NFL Playoff Preview: Chock Full of Creamy Playoffy Goodness For All Football Fans (And Gambling Fans!)

After 17 weeks of sometimes tantalizing, often frustrating foreplay, we’ve finally reached the main course. Welcome to the 2012 NFL Playoffs! (Or is it the 2013 NFL Playoffs? I can never figure that one out.)

Even though I’ve been following football more closely this year than at any other point in my life, I feel about as unprepared to predict the playoffs as I was for mostly every college exam. At least in college I could claim that I didn’t know the material because I never opened the books or went to class. With football, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s watched more hours of games, highlights and analysis than me (just ask my girlfriend, who has put a sports ban on our TV starting promptly on February 4th and lasting until August).

During the regular season it was sometimes easy to predict which team would show up for a game and which team would completely flop. And with 14-16 games per week, I could always cover up my mistakes in a few games with wins in the others. But now we’re at the point where one or two slip-ups in a week will ruin your picks for the entire playoffs. It’s a very stressful time to gamble on the NFL, don’t you think?

While I plan to forge on with my usual weekly picks against the spread during this month of playoffs, I also wanted to use this first postseason blog to try to predict each winner of the 11 playoff games. I also found some very interesting prop bets on my gambling website, and I’ll discuss which ones I think are worth taking a flier on and why.

Wildcard Weekend

I gotta tell ya, it’s extremely intriguing to take all of the underdogs this weekend. As you’ll see below, I’m not officially going with that strategy, but you can be sure that I’ll be putting a small wager on a four-team all-underdog parlay (currently paying off at about 11:1 odds). I’m so nervous that we’re heading for a crazy weekend that once the moneyline odds come out on Friday, I’m probably going to do a small bet on all four underdogs to win outright (update: the moneylines are out. A four-team parlay on the moneyline for each underdog pays off at about 86:1 odds). It’s money that I know I’ll never see again, but I’d love to be that guy who can say he saw it coming if they all somehow win.

So why are the underdogs so intriguing to me this weekend? Well just look at these favorites and I’m sure you can see the obvious flaws and warning signs that make the dogs so attractive.

  • #3 Houston – Lost three of last four, going from a certain #1 seed to having to play on opening weekend. They don’t seem to be doing anything well over the past month.
  • #4 Baltimore – Lost four of last five, continue to be extremely unhealthy, not as scary at home as you might think.
  • #3 Green Bay – The surest thing of the favorites, but they have been so schizophrenic all season long. And they just lost to Minnesota six days before this upcoming rematch. Plus, they have to deal with the two scariest words in all of football: Adrian Peterson.
  • #5 Seattle – Yes, the on-the-road, wildcard Seahawks are three-point favorites over the NFC Champion Redskins. That’s reason enough to be skeptical of the ‘Hawks ability to move on. We all know they’ve been a lot worse on the road than at home this year.

I know it won’t happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Anyway, let’s move on to the individual picks:

Cincinnati @ Houston (-4.5) – Saturday, 1:30pm PT

My good friend Bill Simmons calls this “The Vegas Zone.” It’s a reference to when the oddsmakers have no idea what the line should be, so they put it in this weird 4.5-5.5 point area. Should it be closer to a field goal? More like a full touchdown? Who knows? So they put it in the middle. Now if someone could honestly tell me that a month ago they predicted the Texans would get a line in “The Vegas Zone” for a home playoff game against the Bengals, then you can take this blog over and make all of my readers a lot richer than I can. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The crazy thing is these two teams really are about even when you look at most stats. The Texans’ point differential for the regular season is only 14 more than Cincinnati’s. And if you’re the type of person who believes in the DVOA rankings from footballoutsiders.com, then you should already know that Houston finished the season as the 11th-best team in the league, and Cincinnati finished right behind them at #12. If you believe that stuff, then it’s a no-brainer that you’re taking the Bengals.

Two things give me pause when it comes to taking Cincy: 1). During their 7-1 run over the second half of the season, they really only beat one quality team, the Giants, and 2). Their offense kinda sucks. You almost have to be sure that their defense can hold Houston to 20 points or less if you’re taking the Bengals this weekend.

Here’s an obscure stat you may not know that could swing this game: The Texans were ranked dead last in the NFL in special teams this year. The Bengals finished in the top 10.

If I was picking with my heart: I’d go with Cincinnati. Doesn’t this franchise deserve their first playoff win since 1990? It feels like they’ve done a lot of right things lately like sticking with Marvin Lewis (a decent coach, not as big of a disaster as we once thought), drafting a legit stud in A.J. Green, sticking to their guns with Drew Dalton over Carson Palmer last year, and getting BenJarvus Green-Ellis, not a Pro Bowl caliber guy, but a running back they desperately needed. They’ve done enough to finally deserve a January win.

The actual pick against the spread: Cincinnati. Too much Bengal defense. Too much on Matt Schaub’s shoulders.

The straight-up pick: Cincinnati 17, Houston 15 (ugly, ugly game me thinks)

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-9) – Saturday, 5pm PT

Of course the easiest way to screw this pick up is to rely only on what you saw when these teams played each other just five days ago. Minnesota beat Green Bay at home by three in one of the best games of the year. So why should we think that just because the rematch is in Wisconsin the Packers are suddenly 12 points better than what they showed in week 17? If you take the Vikings and base your pick only on that, I won’t call you crazy. Sometimes it really is that simple. And by picking the Vikings you also get to laugh at all the idiots who picked against Adrian Peterson if he goes off for 360 yards on the way to carrying his team to an improbable win. Rooting for him is fun (another simple, straight-forward reason to pick Minnesota).

But there are more than a couple legitimate reasons to go with the Packers on Saturday night. First of all, even though Green Bay had something to play for in that loss last week, they looked more concerned with getting injured players healthy and giving recently-back-to-being-healthy players some limited practice reps. It feels like they’ll be healthier than they’ve been in a while for this game, and they seem like the type of team that can flip the switch and really turn it on now that they have no other choice. Secondly, the Vikings have been soooo much better at home than on the road this year. They lost road games by 12, 10, 18 and 9 points in the regular season. Yes, both Cincinnati and Minnesota have been on fire lately. And both have second-year quarterbacks leading them. But don’t mistakenly think they’re equally capable of pulling off the road upset. Cincy has a very good defense anchoring them. They also have a quarterback who you could at least describe as “competent.” They also have a game-changing wide receiver. Minnesota has none of those things. Sure, they have the regular season MVP in Peterson, but I’m still dubious about how far a stud running back can take a team that has one of the worst QB/WR combos in the NFL.

If I was picking with my heart: Of course I’d be taking the Vikings to win another epic battle that comes down to a last-minute field goal (or better yet, an Adrian Peterson game-winning run). My dream scenario in the NFC Championship game is Minnesota @ Washington.

The actual pick against the spread: Hate to do it…nine points is a lot…but Green Bay is the pick.

The straight-up pick: I was motivated enough to look back over the past six NFL wildcard rounds, and every year there was at least one blowout (usually two or three of them). I feel like this is the one: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 10.

Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-6.5) – Sunday, 10am PT

There are a few storylines in this game that have nothing to do with stats, right? Chuck Pagano’s fight with leukemia…Ray Lewis’ fight with father time…Something about the Colts formerly being in Baltimore back in caveman times…Pagano was one of the Ravens’ coaches just a year ago, right? These are things that really won’t affect the outcome of the game, but you can’t turn on a TV this week without hearing about them. By the way, I’d like to think the Ravens players are as sick of the whole Ray Lewis schtick as I am and therefore they’re prepared to throw the game to end his career as soon as humanly possible. I bet there’s at least a couple Ravens players who’d consider sacrificing playoff wins in order to get his overrated ass out of that lockeroom once and for all.

On one side of this game you have a Colts team that is less talented, less seasoned, but extremely healthy. On the other side you have a Ravens team that is redefining what it means to be unhealthy, but they’re more talented and have a ton of veteran guys who have been doing this playoff thing for a long time. The Ravens backed their way into the playoffs in losing four of their last five. The Colts not only came in the front door of the playoffs, but they actually used one of those door-ramming devices you see cops use in the movie to get in…winning five of their last six to leave no question about their playoff worth (Battering ram is the answer. I should have just called it a battering ram).

This game really boils down to one question: Is Baltimore really that much better of a home team than a road team? For all the talk about how good they are in Maryland, go back and look at the results from this season. They’ve lost two of their last three at home. They won three home games by a touchdown or less… You know when they’ve looked great at home? When they destroyed Oakland in week 10. That’s about it.

If I was picking with my heart: At this point I think you understand that all the “with my heart” picks would be for the underdog. Especially in this game…I dislike the Ravens; I like Andrew Luck; I like the Pagano story; I want to see the Colts face Peyton Manning.

The actual pick against the spread: Colts cover! The Ravens aren’t scaring anyone this time around! By the way, the Ravens have the worst record against the spread (6-9-1) out of all the teams playing this weekend.

The straight-up pick: Baltimore 30, Indianapolis 27. Sadly I can’t pick Indy to pull off the full upset. I hope I’m wrong, but their miracle run has to come to an end some time, and I think it’ll be in a valiant effort at Baltimore (tear).

Seattle @ Washington (+3) – Sunday, 1:30pm PT

If Molly was still alive, I’d be letting her pick this game…Sorry, bad joke. Molly is still alive. But she’s in semi-retirement for the postseason. She loves her 12-4 regular season record and always said that she’d rather go out on top than turn into this decade’s Brett Favre (she can be a real ball buster huh?). Anyway, I’d love for her to pick this game because I just can’t figure it out. With the Redskins being a three-point underdog, this really feels like a coin flip.

Let’s just try to hammer this out in my stream of consciousness mode:

“The Redskins are at home against a team that’s notorious for being bad on the road. How are they getting three points? But the Seahawks have proven to be one of the best teams in the league…the best team in the league according to footballoutsiders.com. But Washington is on such a roll. And that home crowd is going to be crazy for the first meaningful playoff game in D.C. in about 13 years. But Seattle’s defense might shut the ‘Skins down completely. And the Seahawks have beat teams like San Francisco, New England and Green Bay this year. Oh cut it out, we all know those were home games and the Green Bay game was a farce. They’ve lost road games to Arizona, Detroit, St. Louis and Miami this year…all worse opponents than Washington. And that Redskins defense has come a long way since the early part of the season…And Washington’s basically been playing a playoff game each of the last five weeks…And if you think about it, the Redskins were a stupid Josh Morgan penalty and a brief RGIII injury away from being 12-4 this year (would have won the St. Louis and Atlanta games). And sure, the Seahawks could have one more loss because of the replacement ref game, but they also were a lucky bounce or one more play away from wins in just about all of their losses. And the Seahawks were a solid 11-5 against the spread this year…Wait, so were the Redskins.”

You can see how I’m losing my mind here, right?

If I was picking with my heart: C’mon. You’re talking about the guy who has had an irrational hatred towards the Seahawks all year. Of course I’d blindly be picking the ‘Skins if it was all about my emotions.

The actual pick against the spread: I keep coming back to two things…the home field advantage Washington will absolutely have on Sunday afternoon (I think it’ll be equal to a typical Seattle home field advantage) , and how stupid it seems to bet against RGIII. I genuinely get goosebumps every time he talks to the media. The guy just seems to have the right blend of talent, intelligence, passion and understanding of the moment. I’m not going against that.

The straight-up pick: Washington 31, Seattle 30. Hail To The Redskins??

Beyond WildCard Weekend

Let’s see how poorly I can do at picking the entire playoff bracket through the Super Bowl before the first game is played.

In the AFC, I’ve got:

-#6 Cincinnati over #3 Houston

-#4 Baltimore over #5 Indianapolis

#1 Denver over #6 Cincinnati

#2 New England over #4 Baltimore

#2 New England over #1 Denver (AFC Championship Game)

In the NFC, I’ve got:

#3 Green Bay over #6 Minnesota

#4 Washington over #5 Seattle

#2 San Franisco over #3 Green Bay

#4 Washington over #1 Atlanta

#2 San Francisco over #4 Washington (NFC Championship Game)

And of course I have New England over San Francisco in the Super Bowl. The rematch that every fan base who doesn’t have a horse in this playoff race wants to see. By the way, I know it’s absolutely crazy to put Washington in the NFC Championship game, but I feel like some goofy team that shouldn’t be there has to advance a couple rounds this year. My two college friends who are huge ‘Skins fans gotta be cringing at this right now. Sorry, guys. RGII and company won me plenty of money on my preseason “Washington to win the division” bet. I feel like I owe it to them to be an honorary fan.

Wildcard Weekend Prop Bets

And finally here are some prop bets I found for this weekend that intrigue me enough that I’ll probably be putting a small wager on each.

1). Who will record the most passing yards during wildcard weekend?

  • Andrew Luck (7/2): Feeling like they will have to throw a lot to make it a game. He’s more than capable of putting up 350 in a loss. He’s got better odds than Aaron Rodgers, the other obvious candidate for this bet.

2). Who will have more sacks in the game? Cincinnati (+160) or Houston (-200)

  • Cincinnati (+160): The Bengals had seven more sacks than Houston in the regular season. The Bengals offensive line is equal to or better than the Texans offensive line. What am I missing here? Why are they giving us such favorable odds on Cincy?

3). Will Ed Reed get an interception in the game?  Yes (+250) or No (-400)

  • Yes (+250): You just know he will. It’s Ed Reed vs a rookie QB in a home playoff game. This is like free money.

Enjoy the first weekend of meaningful football. And be sure to check back on the WBFF blog for all your playoff coverage.

Five Little Christmas Stories: Women’s Troubles, Family Problems, Yankee Flop, Jaywalking and Diet Coke

While I patiently wait for my Mac to get fixed (estimated by the Apple repair people to take “best case a couple days, could be up to a week, worst case a lot longer than that”…coulda just said “two days to infinity”), let’s empty out the notebook with some short stories that are vaguely relevant to my trip back to Boston and Fitchburg over Christmas. There actually is no notebook to empty because all my brilliant blog ideas get stored on a file on my computer, which you might have heard is in the shop. So these are all based on my fuzzy memory.

1). The Moment I Decided It’s OK to Stereotype Women

Poor Julie deals with a lot of shit from me, never more so than when I’m bugging her about how she’s making us late for something. I hate to throw her under the bus in such a public forum, but there’s some kind of built-in trigger inside her that will never allow her to be on time for anything. Sometimes it’s because of the 123 wardrobe changes moments before it’s time to leave. More often it’s not being able to find a crucial item as we’re about to walk out the door (wallet, ID, phone, sunglasses…by the way, you know how you avoid this problem? You simply put your belongings in the same place every time. I guarantee most men have their wallets, cell phone and keys either in the pocket of the pants they’re currently wearing or on their bureau…most likely on the same damn spot of the bureau every time). Anyway, where was I? Oh right. So I’ve been trying to give women the benefit of the doubt, because why should Julie ruin it for everyone else. But then there was the day I was leaving Fitchburg to go back into Boston last week. My sister (sorry, but the internet doesn’t have the capacity needed for me to describe how I have a sister, you’ll just have to trust me)…my sister decided to get a ride into Boston with me, and I told her we needed to leave the house at 1:30. After all, I had a set time to meet Julie and her Dad, and like me he’s a man who enjoys being punctual. It was 11am when I told her our departure time. Her response? “No problem, I can be ready in 30 seconds.” Really? Because I know you still have two loads of laundry to do and the casualness with which you’re sitting on the couch watching TV right now is making me very nervous. Fast forward to 1pm and she’s yelling down the stairs to me, “Ross, you said we’re leaving around two, right?” Long story short, if it wasn’t for her mother literally packing her suitcase for her, we’d still be in Fitchburg right now. So she gets her shit together by 1:30, oozing with pride at being on time. We jump in the car and she tells me, “OK I just need to stop by the bank and then get an iced coffee and we can get the hell outta here.”

Which brings me to my next point: You’re not allowed to say you’re ready and then spring last-second to-do’s on me as if they don’t count towards us being late. Another great example: Just last night Julie and I were getting ready to go see a movie. We both decided we should leave by 7:10. At that exact time, she says she’s ready. But then she craves a hot tea to bring to the movie so we just have to brew that bad boy up real quick. And do I happen to know where she can find our straws for the tea? No problem, we can just search the kitchen for a few minutes.

Here’s my final point on this topic. I get so stressed out from trying to plan to be on time for things that I’m worried it’s going to lead to my eventual death. So my one resolution for New Year’s is to not stress or make a fuss when we’re inevitably late for everything. I’ll just hope that the women in my life eventually figure out that being on time can be beneficial. Until then, I just want you all to know that it’s not my fault I was late to your wedding, our double date, your funeral. I was ready in plenty of time.

And now for some much shorter stories…

2). Where I Sound Like An Inconsiderate Prick But I’m Really Not

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my family’s friends. But when my Dad said he was having some people over last Sunday to see my new nephew and lay gifts at his feet, I couldn’t help but be worried (I don’t think my Dad technically called it a “viewing of the Messiah” on the invite, but I imagine the three kings’ visit to Jesus’ manger was a lot like what went down at this party, only this time there were about 75 more people and 40 more empty bottles of liquor). I was worried because you may have heard that Sunday is when a lot of awesome football is on TV. And when friends and family you haven’t seen in years are around, it looks really douchey to stare right through them at the TV while they’re trying to tell you how awesome their grandkids are. Of course chances are you won’t miss anything that amazing by taking your eyes off the TV and then just check in every now and then on the score. But my brothers and I thought that on December 20, 2003, when another family gathering was happening on a football Sunday. And you know what we missed because we couldn’t stare at the TV or hear the sound of it? We missed the Joe Namath “I wanna kiss you” moment. To this day I resent my family just a little bit for making me miss that. So I’ll reiterate that I love my family and friends, and I’m so happy they all wanna get together when I’m home. But can we please schedule these things on a Saturday next time? I don’t wanna have to pretend to have explosive diarrhea just so I can take my computer into the bathroom and pull up the Red Zone Channel while I sit on the toilet not actually diarrheaing.

3). The Worst Yankee Swap Of All Time

So my brother sent out an email on December 8th to the side of the family we were opening gifts with on Christmas morning to see if everyone wanted to do a Yankee Swap. All six of us immediately replied yes, and we set a $20 suggested limit on the gifts. Everyone involved is an adult with the ability to go to a store and make a purchase or go online and order an item. But when the dust settled on the worst Yankee Swap Ever, here’s what we had:

  • An electronic key finder that the buyer admitted was meant for only one specific person in the swap—always a good idea to buy a gift specific to a person when the game is literally a random drawing.
  • The first season of Homeland on DVD. Not actually a bad gift at all in theory, but we quickly discovered that almost all the potential recipients had either already seen it or had just gotten the DVD as a gift from someone else.
  • Two $10 scratch tickets that were purchased at about 5pm on December 24th when the buyer realized he had forgotten about the Swap entirely.
  • Two more $10 scratch tickets that were purchsed 30 minutes before the Swap was set to go down, not because this buyer forgot about it, but because he was literally holding out hope til the last minute that we’d change our minds about doing it (rumor has it he went into the gas station, bought the tickets, got back into his car, decided one of the tickets he was holding was lucky and didn’t want someone else to win a bunch of money, so he scratched it, won nothing and had to run back into the store to buy the 2nd half of the “gift” again).
  • A bottle of special hot sauce that at first seemed like a thoughtful gift, but later we discovered that this person found a random case of abandoned hot sauce so she decided to give a bottle as gifts to the whole family.
  • And then two actual useful gifts.

I dare you to find a less successful Yankee Swap.

4). The Strangest Monologue I Heard All Week

While waiting to cross the street in downtown Boston last Saturday, I heard a guy behind me say, “That’s the only thing I liked about California when I visited. They actually give tickets for jaywalking. Seriously, I got a ticket for that when I was out there. And I was happy about it…It’s the only thing about California that made any sense to me.”

5). Finally Taking Credit For Starting The Coolest Trend in Soda History

I’m beaming with pride as I write this: I was the first person who ever drank Diet Coke purely for the taste. Many people drank it before me because they were on a diet, or because they were diabetic, or maybe even because their mom was on a diet and it’s the only soda she’d allow in the house. But no one before me ever tasted Diet Coke and thought “Mmm, even if given a choice between regular and diet, I’d go with the diet.” I estimate I started this trend in the summer of 1989. After doing some research, I learned that Diet Coke came out in August of 1982. That’s a seven-year gap where someone could have presumably beat me to the punch. But no way. Because you know people probably resisted it over the first few years. People were used to that super-sweet taste of regular Coke and when they took a sip of this new diet concoction, they all probably said, “Ew gross, why couldn’t they make this taste more like the regular stuff?” But not me. A little six-year-old boy was running around his country club in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1989 saying, “This Diet Coke stuff is the shit…I wanna drink at least one a day.” Now you can’t go anywhere in public without someone gushing about how much they crave Diet Coke. A little credit would be nice. You know what else I could take credit for? Being the first person to decide fountain soda wasn’t just marginally better than canned or bottled soda, but infinitely better. Give me a good fountain Diet Coke and then shoot me in the face. I’ll go happily.

Final note on this: If you’re a Diet Coke connoseuir like myself, you definitely have a hierarchy of which fast food places have the best fountain soda. Burger King for sure has the worst. McDonald’s is OK, and Wendy’s is pretty good. But give me a choice and I’m going with the fountain D.C. from Five Guys or In-n-Out.

Oh and the best part about all this is that I actually got someone to admit last Friday night that I did start the “Diet Coke for pure taste” trend. Slowly but surely this thing is gonna pick up steam.

6). One Final Bonus Story Just Because I’m Feeling Guilty

I broke someone’s Yo-Yo at my Dad’s house on Christmas night. I have no idea whose it was or what kind of sentimental value it might have had. And I didn’t tell anyone. I just watched it break and then put it down on the coffee table like it was a working Yo-Yo that I was done playing with. So to whoever’s toy that was, I’m not sorry…it was a cheap Yo-Yo. But I guess I owe you like a buck twenty-six or something. Let me know who to make the check out to.