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WTF? May 8, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, General.
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  1. Steven Sagal dress-alike contest winner
  2. “I can be more convincing as a bullfighter than Robert Evans was in The Sun Also Rises. THIS kid stays in the Superbowl!”
  3. “Welcome to La Cocina Velazquez, for the finest in tapas. Would you prefer a booth, table, or seats at the bar?”
  4. “Mister Bond, so good of you to drop in.  Perhaps a long overdue tour of my operations towards world domination are in order. My protegé Belichick longs to kill you with his razor tipped hoodie, and I do not plan to disappoint him. And lest you think of escape, you will notice The Gronk stands in your way…”
  5. “Giselle picked this out and said it looks good on me, so no matter how fucking ridiculous you think it is, I’m just gonna smile and nod and not say a fucking thing, okay mac? She makes even more money than I do, and she’s almost as pretty.”

Gonna go with 5…


Saturday Roundup: Patriots Draft Picks, Cat Petting And A Book Safari April 28, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Books, Cats, Football.
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Today I went on a quest for cheap furniture – combing through a bunch of thrift stores in search of a replacement comfy corner chair for my classroom, as the old one is on its last legs, literally. Came up empty there, but found a couple of good books as long as I was there.

One looks like a nice true narrative of a major art forgery scandal called Provenance, about a forger & conman who managed to get the forgeries into collections and museums all over Europe where they remain to this day.

If forgeries sell tickets, they’ll say on the walls. It’s not like the public can ever tell the difference.

I read a lot of books on art forgery and theft rings while working out story elements for Wagstaff & Meatballs, and I continue to enjoy reading about the topic.

I also picked up a copy of The Truth Will Out: Unmasking The Real Shakespeare, a 2005 book that put forth a Shakesperean authorship theory I’m not as familiar with, making the case for Sir Henry Neville as the actual author of the plays & poems. CONFESSION: I am a confirmed skeptic as to the accepted idea that the Stratford actor Shakepeare wrote all that material, and I lean towards the Oxfordian theories. I think there’s a much stronger case to be made against Shakespeare than any positive case can be made for the different supposed authors, but I’m open to reading anything as well researched as this thing seems to be from my first skims. And it was only a buck!

And a brief Wagstaffesque synchronicity moment: As I browsed the racks of books coming up empty, some old dude who looked WAY too much like Scott Adams of “Dilbert” fame browsed the shelves over my shoulder, and he carried a couple of big volumes he’d scooped up. One of ’em was some enormous compendium all about Shakespeare performances in America. I always get annoyed every time I see other people holding onto books I didn’t get a crack at whenever I’m at some thrift store or library sale or whatever, and I thought to myself how it’d be cool if I found another Shakespeare book, especially on the author conspiracy theory.

Before I left the store, I figured I’d check the unsorted new-old-junk racks they’d just wheeled out…. and that’s where I found The Truth Will Out book.

On top of that? The Shakespeare authorship mischigoss is one of the elements in the third Wagstaff book I’m currently writing.

So I guess it immediately goes to the top of my reading list.

I got rewarded for visiting the thrift store in the same shopping center as a pet supply place with a big black store cat who I like to visit and pet whenever I’m jonesin’ for kitty. He’s easily found napping on one of his many dedicated cat trees around the store. Today I learned his name – Carlos the cat. I already knew he preferred chin rubs to damn near everything else. I didn’t disappoint him.

Then I came home and reviewed the rest of the Patriots draft picks in the final rounds today. It looks like they plugged all the position holes left by departing players. They scored a couple of cornerbacks who might replace Malcolm Butler. They got a wide receiver whose physicality and stats suggest a replacement for Danny Amendola, both in the slot and in punt returns. They picked up a couple of linebackers who will hopefully make good pass rushers, something they need badly. And, they did indeed draft a quarterback, Danny Etling out of LSU, a kid who doesn’t turn the ball over but clearly needs a lot of work. Can THE SYSTEM that made Cassell and Garroppolo into NFL quarterbacks work its magic on this kid? I certainly hope so, but who knows?

My realistic & cynical heart tells me that the Pats will be in a bad place psychologically next year. Losing the Superbowl despite what the offense accomplished and the controversy around the benching of Butler will hang over the psyche of the team akin to how the Seahawks were dogged by “Why didn’t we just run it into the end zone?” and how the Falcons were dogged by “Why didn’t we run down the clock and kick a field goal?” when they respectively blew both of their Superbowls against the Pats. Now it’s the Pats turn, I fear, and some of the stuff said by departing players about the overall not-fun and overly-regimented atmosphere within the team culture only bolsters my feelings. It all has that win-the-division-by-default but then go out in the first round as the third seed vibe. You heard it here first, sports fans. And I hope I’m wrong.

Now I’m throwing a soup & potstickers light dinner together and watching the Yankees pounding the Angels, at least so far. THIS IS THE YEAR!

New theory: Aaron Judge wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. I’ll get back to you on my research.


A 2018 NFL Draft Post April 26, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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That’s right, sports fans. I poured myself a Sam Adams Smoky Lager (not bad, hadn’t tried that one before, the first of a new 12 pack Sam Adams varietal I grabbed), made myself a nice batch of some spicy chicken and black bean chili, and parked my fat ass down to watch the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

I’m mostly interested in who my Patriots will take with their 2 picks in the first round, and also curious to see where the high-profile players wind up.

The best part might be the consistent boos for Roger Goodell every time he lurches onstage to make the announcements.

I was a little surprised Baker Mayfield went 1st overall to the hapless Browns, but he might actually be a good fit for them – someone whose brashness and attitude is precisely what they need, minus the stupidity & excessive partying of their last big QB pick in Johnny Manziel.

I liked Sam Darnold from USC, tbought he shoulda played another year in college, and he wound up going #3 overall to the Jets. This means I’ll be rooting for him to get his ass kicked by my team as long as he’s there.

Josh Rosen, the QB out of UCLA and NUMBER ONE JEW in the draft wound up on Arizona. Even with all the people comparing Rosen’s overall personality & intellect to Aaron Rodgers, I just can’t escape the Jay Cutler vibe he gives me. I guess time will tell.

And my Patriots? Well, they used their first pick on a tackle, Isaiah Wynn out of Georgia, who will be easily converted to a left guard, replacing the departed Nate Solder. A solid pick if the kid works out, he was a great pass protector in college. For their second pick, they went back to Georgia for Sony Michel, a running back who looks like the replacement for the departed Dion Lewis. They passed on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, who went to the Ravens after they traded to get the final pick.

I’ll probably only pay peripheral attention to the remaining rounds, and internet research whoever the Pats pick. They have 6 more total picks in the later rounds, 2 of those 6 coming in the 2nd round.  I’d assume they plug lots of holes in what was a sad defense (especially when it truly counted in the Super Bowl), and possibly go after a quarterback to replace Jimmy G in the who-gets-to-follow-Brady sweepstakes. It’d be typical of the Pats to draft some QB no one has ever heard of, like they did with Jimmy G.  But I think trading Jimmy G is going to haunt them. His great performance on the Niners and turning them around as soon as he started for ’em didn’t look like a fluke to me, it looked like their future. Sigh.

There’s always cat videos.

Being A Patriots Fan Means Not Caring About The NFL Draft April 27, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Uncategorized.
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If only the last election had gone this way, eh?

The Pats have no first round picks. They have no second round picks. Traded ’em away for some strong talent, like wide receiver Brandon Cooks.

While most teams would view the loss of early picks a detriment, for the Pats, it really doesn’t matter. Tom Brady was a 4th rounder, 199 overall. Julian Edelman was a SEVENTH round pick, 299 overall.

Belichick will grab castoffs from other teams’ practice squads and have them out there as productive starters the following week.

I think he could go into a Wal-Mart, randomly grab a half dozen guys to bring to training camp, and turn most of them into NFL players.

Will I be interested in who the Pats draft? Well, of course. But missing out on the first two rounds only leads to a shrug. Compared to the level of hype over who the Rams or Chargers will pick out here in SoCal, or all the speculation over what poor bastards will get drafted and most likely ruined by the Browns…. well, it means nothing to this Pats fan.

I’ll follow up with my thoughts on the actual picks/trades the Pats make once the draft is over.

In the meantime, I think I’ll have a cup of tea.

Random Thoughts On My Sports Betting Bibliography August 26, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Football, Horse Racing.
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14020c_lgSo one day while killing time between a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment, I wandered the nearby neighborhood and wound up in one of what’s probably one of the few used bookstores left in LA in the age of the internet.  As much as finding specific old rare stuff online is easier, browsing through smelly old stacks of long-abandoned tomes always turns up stuff I’d NEVER heard of or would have even thought of. Web surfing doesn’t quite produce the same effect.

I rolled the reach-to-the-top-shelf store ladder over to explore the top shelf of old dusty sports books, and came across a pristine copy of Sports Betting by Jim Jasper, dated 1979. A quick skim of the thing  fascinated me – not so much for the advice and system offered, but in that the 1979 world I’d stepped into involved a book suggesting I base my betting systems on the lines of BASIC he offered up for me to punch into my TRS-80 to determine whether or not Ron Guidry and the Yankees would defeat Scott Macgregor and the Orioles.

Turns out Jasper wrote two other books (at least) filled with suggested BASIC coded programs for tracking football & baseball bets throughout the year, as well as following horse tracks. I found them both at the LA Central library. I’m guessing they haven’t been loaned out in quite a while.

As out of date as they all were, Jasper’s basic theories and structures are fairly sound – he number crunches all the data he can to determine league averages in various categories, assigns some weighting in terms of home field and the like, and then bases his betting on how far above or below average particular matchups turn out to be, in both baseball and football.

In other words, a general method easily reproduced using whatever categories of comparative stats are readily available online.

Much of Jasper’s number crunching and data recording, especially when I got to the horse racing portions of the two BASIC books, reminded me of the olden days where handicappers would calculate their own speed figures and track biases. When I used to haunt the sports books in Vegas betting the tracks whenever I was there, I’d see the older guys with their notebooks filled with their own timesheets and speed figures. Old habits die hard, I guess.  I have some older horse handicapping books that painstakingly go through how to do it, like Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners or the more recent (1995) Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping, but since relative speed figures are now available in nearly any racing form, there’s not much point (at least to me) in doing my own calculations. And as far as comparing the value of speed figures on Brisnet sheets versus Equifax versys the Beyer speed numbers in the Daily Racing Form… well, if I’m comparing different speed numbers calculated the same way between horses in the same race, I don’t really see what difference it makes. I’m getting comparative ratios, aren’t I?

While I use websites like Statfox to see comparative football, baseball and basketball team stats, spread records and the like, I use Brisnet past performances for horse racing, because like Statfox, they’re available free online if you know where to look.

The best basic edjumacation in reading horse past performances I can recommend would be DRF’s Brad Free’s Handicapping 101, the first book I read on how to go through the racing form. It covered everything in plain language and served as a nice launch point for studying more complex material or systems offered up by others.

My own systems? Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my own book about betting methods, whether in Vegas where I can bet the team sports legally, or back home where I can bet the track in person or online. But I think I’d want to string some sort of Wagstaff story around it. This post served as  a way to empty my mind of all the things I’d probably try to work in and get them down in print. Maybe I’ll post more in the future about particular strategeries that work, maybe I’ll try to weave them into some hybrid how-to book down the line.

In the meantime, I wonder if I could dig out my old copy of Microsoft Quickbasic on floppy disc and use it to create a totally foolproof horse picking program….hmmmm…..

Random Football Cards Of The Day, Yardsale Edition December 1, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Football.
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One of the few sales I managed to get to today in between sale-destroyin’ rain showers had advertised 1970s era sports cards, so I drove over, hoping against hope I’d find some desperate crack addict willing to sell me his entire shoebox of ’70s era cards for twenty bucks or so… but alas, it was not to be.

Instead, I found what is to be expected nowadays – someone who offers lesser material at only a slight discount from the prices they research online. The internet has destroyed the odds of finding real treasures at garage sales. At least it makes up for that in a karmic fashion by providing endless porn.

But I digress.

Anyway, this old guy had a stack of old Life & Look magazines at high prices, including a couple I remember from my childhood, like the “Liz Taylor is 40!” cover or another about the JFK assassination. He had an odd collection of movie lobby posters for too much money (although The Day of The Locust was tempting even if Karen Black is horribly miscast in it… I could pass on the Johnny Whittaker Tom Sawyer poster.)

And in the CHEAP BARGAIN BOX…. some old ’70s football cards for a buck a pop. So, I rifled through ’em and came up with the following:

74JPlunkett There he is, Jim Plunkett, the Pats big hope back in the early ’70s, the #1 pick in the draft, before they gave up on him and went with Steve Grogan. Plunkett did decently for the Pats, along with his former Stanford teammate receiver Randy Vataha, but the team was going nowhere fast. When they traded him to the Niners for some draft picks & went with Grogan as the starter, they made the playoffs a few times and gave all of us lots of false hope. Plunkett wound up winning a Superbowl for the Raiders after coming off the bench to finish the season when Dan Pastorini broke his leg. Grogan provided the only highlights when the Pats went to the Superbowl and got destroyed by the Bears.

I have a vague memory of my dad happily touting Plunkett & Vataha’s possibilities at the dinner table one night… I feel bad that he didn’t live long enough to see Tom Brady come along. The Pats, much like the Red Sox in baseball, were the reliable losers year after year all the time I was growing up, and it’s easy to forget that once you spend more than a decade as a powerful dynasty (although the Sox had a shorter run at it once they finally shook the curse from their backs). Funny… years later, the Pats got the #1 pick overall in the draft and took Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who led them to a Superbowl & wound up giving Brady the chance to start by separating his shoulder.

Bledsoe’s draft made all of us think how the Pats would rise from the 1-15 doldrums, back in the day when one of the few highlights on the team was this guy, coincidentally ANOTHER all-around #1 draft pick for the Pats – 90ScoreIFryar

Irving Fryar, a great receiver who provided far too much off-field drama, but when your team is 1-15, maybe that’s all you got.

This was one of the few other Pats cards in the dollar box, and since the first thing I thought of when looking at it was the time Fryar missed a game due to cuts on his hands after a knife fight with his wife, it made me smile & cough up another dollar.

Fryar had a lot of great moments with the Pats though.. he scored the only touchdown for them in that debacle against the Bears in the Superbowl, and remained a dependable receiver for years.

And has he redeemed himself from the days of knife fights with the little woman? You bet! He’s earned a Doctorate in Theology & is currently the President of the Burlington County College of Theology!

Not too shabby.

The last card I bought simply because it caught my eye for a particular reason:

John Hicks, a decent lineman for the Giants back in the ’70s who had a great college career. And he’s doing quite well these days as well, thank you very much.


But I LOVE this card!

What is he drinking?

He must be really thirsty.

Is it Gatorade & Topps airbrushed it out?

Or is it something else? A soda? A gin ‘n’ tonic? Maybe a Harvey Wallbanger, after all, it WAS 1977.

In any case, I looked at this card, immediately thought of that Laugh-In bit where Alan Sues walks up to the dirty western bar and says “I’ll have a banana daquiri!” and took out another dollar for it.

And I’m not sorry. Not one bit!

In fact, I think I’LL have a drink too.

It’s Pointless To Predict The NFL, 2012 Edition September 3, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Ah, football is back! Something to take my attention away from what is looking more and more like a late September collapse by the injury-addled overly-longball-dependent Yankees & an election season that constantly reveals via social networking that this nation seems engaged in an endless shouting match.

Oh wait – we also have new Dr. Who episodes. Another welcome distraction!

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this holiday weekend watching the opening of the college season & checking out the would-be national powers, as well as who might be fooling the oddsmakers even if I’m not planning a fall trip to Vegas.

Why can I bet on horse races via the internet legally but not other sports? It’s so frickin’ STUPID.

I’ve also been reading assorted predictions for the upcoming NFL season. There are some consistencies among the various prognosticators – EVERYONE is picking the Patriots to win the AFC East, the Texans to win the AFC South & the Packers to win the NFC North. Nearly everyone picks the Falcons to win the NFC South & the Ravens to win the AFC North.

The contrarian in me says they’re always wrong about something – but what?

It’s easy for me to look at Herm Edwards insisting that the Eagles will win the Super Bowl and say “He’s out of his mind,” but a lot of the other stuff seems possible.  A friend of mine must be liking all the people picking the Falcons to win big this year and the people picking Matt Ryan as a possible MVP.  After all, he’s running for Vice President, isn’t he?

Aw, dammit! Back to politics again. Okay, I need to watch that and stick to football.

Here’s where I’m the contrarian optimist: the most common Superbowl prediction is Packers over Patriots, which means that it likely won’t happen. HA!

Although the Pats better be there, DAMMIT! Brady’s got maybe 3 or 4 years left in him. Ryan Mallet looks decent, but come on…. historically, nearly every team that built a run of championships around a hall-of-fame QB needed total rebuilding after that QB retired. The only exceptions I can think of are Joe Montana to Steve Young, and possibly Bret Favre to Aaron Rodgers, but there were a lot of lean years in between on that one.

So I won’t even bother picking division winners or playoffs. It will all depend on whatever combo of key injuries takes out a team or two, which rookies will actually make a difference, and what heretofore unknown group of players below the radar the past few seasons “suddenly” look like a great team and take all the predictors by total surprise, like the 49ers did last year.

And in the end, whoever is healthy and simply playing on a hot streak in December/January will go further than they deserve to on paper, something the mother-f-ing NY Giants proved last year, to be sure.

My Patriots will be on national TV maybe half the time out here on the west coast, including the Thanksgiving evening game to accompany my face-stuffing. Other than that, I’ll be down the street at the sports bar downing beers & snacking on fried calamari more often than last season, from the looks of the schedule. I’m sure all the waitresses down there missed me last year. I think one of them did a comedy routine with an empty chair labelled “Where’s Jimmy the perv?”

Aw, crap, back to politics. This either means I’m predicting the Patriots win 350 electoral votes, or I’d like to watch football & drink beers with Clint Eastwood (I think we’d all want that, honestly), or I need to watch some movies actually worth blogging about as opposed to the past couple of weeks’ crop on my DVR. Pickings have been thin lately, to be sure.

Predictions, Predictions February 2, 2010

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Movies.
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The table has been set for this year’s Superbowl and the nominations for this year’s Oscars were announced this morning, so here’s my possibly non-worthless take on the outcomes of both.

Let’s start with the Superbowl, where the Colts opened as 4 point favorites and are currently at 5 1/2 points over the Saints. As much as I (and everyone else except die-hard Colts fans and members of the Manning family) will be rooting for the Saints in this one, I think the Colts win & cover the spread. Despite the questionable status of Dwight Freeney, I think Manning will outgun Brees in what ought to be a real shootout. It’ll be a fun game to watch, I could even see the Saints up at halftime… but in the end, I think the Colts will grind down the game and win by about a touchdown. I’d rather they didn’t, since the worse Peyton Manning does in the post-season, the easier it will be for me the rest of my life to argue how Brady was better…. then again, if Manning can go out and win a bunch more Superbowls, then more power to him, I suppose. To borrow from Henny Youngman, take the Colts! Please!

And now for the Oscars!

This year, I hardly saw anything. I’m about as dispassionate about the Oscars as I am about the Patriot-less Superbowl.

During my annual Oscar-viewing soiree, we try to predict every damn one of the awards that are part of the broadcast, meaning we try to call who is going to win for Best Documentary Short & Best Sound Editing. I’ll put my immediate off-the-cuff predictions of the major categories here. I doubt they’ll change by March 7.

Best Supporting Actress: This one is fairly easy, since Mo’Nique has been winning some of the earlier awards.
Best Supporting Actor: Another easy one – Christoph Waltz has been generating buzz since that movie came out.
Best Actress: This looks like it’s pretty much between Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock… and even though Bullock was in an audience-favored role, I think the Academy feels the need to give Streep another award at this stage in her career, after her record number of nominations. And she hasn’t won since 1983. And she will get lots of votes from all the old scrag actresses in Hollywood that loved the way she played to their 60-year old fantasies about their self-image in that Nancy Meyers chick flick. And Bullock’s character was a conservative Christian. So, I’ll pick Meryl Streep.
Best Actor: Another easy pick – Jeff Bridges gets the career award. Everyone knows he should be an Oscar winner, somewhere, for the great body of work he’s done. This is the year.
Best Director & Best Picture: Yep, they go together like lox & bagels. Despite ten best picture noms versus the traditional five directors, I think we’ll still get a matched set. While the additional Best Picture noms throw a little confusion in the works, when it really comes down to it, the big box-office audience pleasers in the bunch (Avatar & The Blind Side) won’t make it… I’m guessing Up wins for Best Animated Picture (as well as Best Original Screenplay, over my Best Picture prediction)… the only dark horse in there is Up In The Air, but nobody got overly excited over that. So, I think the Academy will pat itself on the back with its first ever woman director to win, and I’ll pick Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker as winners here.

Up In The Air will get adapted screenplay. Avatar will sweep the technical awards. Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin will be fairly funny, but the show will be as boring as usual. Karl Malden gets pole position on the memorial reel.

And unfortunately, the special Oscar they’re giving Roger Corman will not be part of the broadcast. Philistines.

Penn 14, Brown 7 (OT) November 1, 2009

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So much for any shot at the Ivy title.

They came real close… missing a 44 yard field goal attempt that couldn’t cut through the 40mph wind gusts. Penn & Harvard will be fighting it out for the title this year. Next year, who knows?

Next week – at Yale, in New Haven, otherwise known as the Paris of New England. Well, okay, not really. I think that’s still New Bedford.

Brown 34, Cornell 14 October 24, 2009

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bear-smallTake THAT, only Ivy school with an actual marching band! That’ll teach you to be boring!

Honestly, everyone I’ve ever met from Cornell or the students of mine who have gone there have been fine. I won’t lump them in with the Cornell alums who happen to be some of my least favorite people who walk the Earth (Yes, Bill Maher is one).

Brown’s defense finally stepped up, and the offense rolled up the usual amount of points via Buddy Farnham’s receptions and Zack Tronti’s running. If Brown runs the table in their remaining games, they’ll still need a Harvard loss at some point to win the Ivies since they STUPIDLY BLEW the game against Harvard earlier this year.

Next week – back home for Halloween, against Penn & players that will earn more money than we will, most likely (unless pot is legalized nationally).