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I Dream About The Wrong Things, Part Infinity October 28, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Terry in his “I played the Creature in Rocky Horror!” years

Last night, I dreamed that Terry Bradshaw was jealous of my hair. He shrugged and said he guessed he didn’t get the right genes since he went bald so young. I told him he certainly got the right football genes, but he didn’t seem to care and walked away with a a pout.

There was nothing I could do to cheer him up.

THE BURDENS I CARRY, PEOPLE!!!!

Some quick picks under the wire:

I’ll go with the Browns plus the 8 points against Bradshaw’s old Steelers, the Lions to cover 3 over the Seahawks, the Colts to cover 3 against the pathetic Raiders, and in the pick-o-the-week, I’ll take the Redskins to cover a mere 1 1/2 over the also pathetic Giants. Spreads like that one make me suspicious, like the oddsmakers know something I don’t – why are the Giants only 1 1/2 point underdogs?? Are they allowed to hand the ball to a Mack truck on 3rd down to even things up this week? Dunno, but it looks like easy money to me.

And I’ve got the hair to prove it.

 

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A Truly Historic Occasion September 30, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, General.
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I was wrong.

About the Patriots. They did just fine today, in nearly every category of play.

Being wrong is a completely unknown and new sensation for me, however. I’ll need some time to absorb and process it.

But Go Pats, in the meantime…

As The Wheels Come Off September 27, 2018

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The Patriots have looked pretty horrible the past couple of weeks, after squeaking by a weak Houston team in week 1.

Between injuries (Burkhead, Flowers, Chung), stupid management decisions (Goodbye to Cooks, Amendola, Lewis, Solder) and Edelman’s 4 game suspension, they got nuthin’ for Brady to work with out there.

And while previous Patriot seasons would begin 2-2 or the like and wind up with Super Bowl appearances as the team made adjustments and people you never heard of would step up, this year feels different.

It’s a gut feeling on my part watching these first few games, and I hope I’m wrong, but I think this time, the Brady run they’ve been on since pretty much he stepped in as starting QB is over.

Brady looks like he’s lost a little edge out there – overthrowing an amazingly weak receiver core. He’s worked with motley assortments of receivers all his years, but now…. he’s got nuthin’.  It can’t all be on Gronk. And Brady’s 41. I don’t care about his training regimen or if he’s juicing with Underdog’s super energy pill – one serious injury and he’s done.

By the time I was 41, I needed an ambulance just to take me to the bathroom down the hall.

And they got nuthin’ to replace him.

I think even a returned Edelman and a sobered up Josh Gordon won’t be enough.

That’s right… I’m a total pessimist.

And their defense, at whose spikes can be laid the blame for losing a winnable Super Bowl last February still sucks. No pass rush. No pass defense to speak of. Linebackers who can’t tackle.

Miami is coming to Gillette this Sunday and are 7 point underdogs.

Take ’em and the points. Easy money. I think Miami will win the game outright, and there’ll be a lot of articles written that sound a lot like this blog post. Get ready next Monday for a lot of “The Patriots Are Over” hot-takes.

BUT I’M FIRST!!!!

I hope I’m wrong, but I think it’s over. It was great fun while it lasted, but I’m getting a very strong “2010 Yankees” vibe from these guys… when the Jeter/Rivera era had waned, they had a last hurrah in ’09, and the glory years of a decade earlier were a distant memory. It took some years to rebuild. The Pats are in the same place, alas.

I got the Thursday night game on. While writing this, I just watched Brandon Cooks catch a 47 yard TD pass from Jared Goff. Yeah, the Pats certainly got their draft pick’s worth out of THAT trade.

Although at least Cooks will probably win a Superbowl now.

Just remember…. you heard it first from MISTER KILL JOY, RIGHT HERE.

But I hope I’m wrong.

 

OCD Football Card Of The Day: 1971 Ray Nitschke August 18, 2018

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It’s storytime, cats and kittens!

1971 was the first year I began collecting sports cards. Starting in the spring with baseball, my fave sport, I’d take the fifty cent allowance I got each week for not being TOO much of a pain in the ass, and walk the 3/4 mile each way (I just measured it on google maps) to what was then Adam’s Drugs (now a Dollar Tree, evidently) and buy 5 packs of 10 cards for a dime baseball cards.

They put ’em out in at least 6 “series” back then, meaning they’d sell segments of the entire set and change them every few weeks. You’d have to wait for a lot of your favorite players and stars, reading the checklist cards carefully to see what was out there, what was gone and what was coming.

Far too often, the local candy wholesalers would run erratic schedules, and combining that with packs left on the shelves meant some series of cards got incredibly short shrift. Looking over all the cards I bought in ’71, Series 4 and 6, the final one, are rather thin. 1972 was an even bigger set, and the final series of those had a very brief shelf life at Adam’s Drugs, as well as nationally. It’s why the “high number” cards even for commons are more expensive these days.

In ’73 and ’74, I bought whole boxes directly from a local wholesaler who didn’t mind selling single boxes to kids who collected cards. And Topps abandoned series in ’73, as well as cutting down the size of the set from 787 to 660. So, a box of packs held unlimited possibilities of what players I’d get. 24 packs to a box for two bucks at wholesale, a WAY better deal than Adam’s Drugs, once I’d saved my allowance.

Two bucks! Now look at what a box that’s managed to stay unopened since 1973 goes for at auction and cry.

In later years, I’d buy hand-sorted complete sets from ads in the back of The Sporting News. It was great to have the cards… but the anticipation/surprise of opening those wax packs was gone, and it was really part of the fun.

I didn’t miss the hard-candy textured shingle of industrial bubblegum that we always dreaded would be next to a card we really wanted in the pack, leaving that God damn gum stain on it.

Anyway, back in 1971 by the time we got to around this point in the year near Labor Day, the football packs would appear, followed by the basketball and hockey ones.

In the fall of ’71, I kept buying cards. I paid more attention to football than I did to baseketball or hockey. I only bought maybe 1 or 2 packs of those, but I bought football throughout the season. Only 2 series of cards to deal with, too. (more…)

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

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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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bel

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.

77JHicks

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.