Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Seattle 23-Broncos 20.

Against the Patriots Manning had the game of his life in perfect conditions at home after the Patriots best defensive player was felled in the first half.  Biggest concern is if Seattle can score. Wilson is a kid, a great athlete, but he could succumb to the bright lights and show his age.  Still, Manning or Zeus cannot pass like he did in Denver for two consecutive games.  I see an interception or two, and maybe a fumble. I'm not a big fan of Pete Carroll but the guy can coach defense. Also the Bronco kicker is due to miss outside of the friendly confines of mile high. Take the Seahawks.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Peyton Manning played as perfect a game as a quarterback can play in yesterday's 26-16 victory over the Patriots and Tom Brady.  It did not hurt that the contest was played in perfect conditions and that the Patriots best defender was injured in the first half.  Yet perfect conditions etc or not, the play of Manning in both his passing skill and intelligence was something for a museum.

I've often said to any who will endure listening to my wisdom, that the most important skill for a quarterback is not arm strength or passing accuracy.  If you don't have a sophisticated brain, you can not excel at quarterback.  Football, more than any other sport, is a game that requires chess like decision making.  And no position requires more decision making than the quarterback spot.  Many times yesterday Manning saw a defense and called a play that would be successful given how the Patriots were lined up.  Of course, his ability to throw the passes so precisely made the plays he called effective. But it was his brain, not his athletic prowess, that was the key ingredient.

And Manning was not playing against the village idiots. Unlike last week when Manning was able to get San Diego to jump offsides because of his shouting, the Pats did not budge offsides once. Of course, neither did they get to the quarterback once. Not one sack all day. But the Pats played intelligently too, yet Manning really was able to outsmart a smart defense all day long. Had his receivers made a couple of additional plays they should have made the score could have been more lopsided.

So, hats off to the Broncos who beat my Pats.  As a fan I will point out that (a) on third down of the first series of the game, Austin Collie was held like an accosted bank robber, but the referees did not make the call requiring a punt on the first possession, and (b) there was a completely bogus offensive interference call against the Pats later on that even the tv announcers considered peculiar, and (c) there was a defensive holding called against the Pats that was pure home cooking and led to the Broncos first touchdown. However, belly aching aside, the Broncos were the better team and Peyton Manning's performance was one of the best of all time.

On another note, I went one and one on my predictions, losing the Pats game, but winning at Seattle. (Quite a contrast watching that game and the young whippsersnapper quarterbacks for both teams after the cerebral chess match in Denver).  My wisdom in the post season now guarantees a winning record. 1-3 wild card weekend, 4-0 division playoffs, 1-1, championship week.  I go into the super-bowl 6-4.  I'll wait until I hear the weather report for NY before I make the super bowl prediction. If the weather is mild like it was in Denver yesterday, nobody is going to top Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

rocks and championships

Last night my buddy Ken and I went out for dinner to a new place.  When the server asked us if we wanted something to drink we both asked for scotch, on the rocks. His tastes are a little more sophisticated than mine so he had a single malt and I went with a blend.  She put the drinks down in front of us and moved on to another table.  The way she placed the glasses we could not tell which one was which. Ken sipped them both and took a guess but acknowledged he couldn't tell. The server came by and told us that his guess was wrong. Fact is, I drink scotch now and again and so does Ken. But we really couldn't tell the difference between the two.   The difference in cost was about five bananas.  We attributed our inability to see a distinction to the likelihood that we are philistines as opposed to any shenanigans at the bar.

After the meal we got the check and we intended to split it down the middle as we typically do when we dine.  I threw in my card, he threw in his. He picked up the bill, looked at it, and told me he saw something on it that he had never seen before.  And he told me that he guaranteed I had never seen it before.  I bit and said, "what?" And he placed the itemized bill in front of me.

There I saw the cost of my scotch, seven ducats--and then indented beneath it was the word "rocks" with a charge of two dollars. His scotch was 12 ducats--also with an accompanying charge of two bucks for "rocks."

We called over the server and asked if we could be reading this correctly.  "Is there really a two dollar charge for ice cubes?"  Her response, sounding as if she was only partly on board with the management decision, was that when they pour the booze over the ice they pour more than if it is "neat" and therefore they charge more.  To be fair in evaluating her explanation I might not have understood her message as what she was saying was difficult to comprehend through the fog of incredulity that hung in the space between where she was standing and where I was sitting.

Well we paid the bill, but could not believe it.  We wondered at the table and I have wondered since about the management decision making process that had as its result the charge.   Who thought that itemizing the ice would be a wise way to price a beverage.  And how could whoever thought that through believe that it would not seem curious to diners and might affect their take-away experience.
My sense is that the management thought process was grounded in knucklehead theory.  This is a phrase I just made up and let's say it refers to a series of notions that have no logical foundation yet are considered wise by those who spew them.

My sense is that some enterprises can survive using knucklehead theory.  A gym club that is the only such club in a region might get away with policies that are the residual of knucklehead theory. The lone taxi cab company in a town might be able to survive despite knucklehead decisions. And even a restaurant might survive-though I doubt it-if they have a series of poorly conceived policies.

Knucklehead theory can relate to the games that will be played today.  There are four teams left vying for the NFL championship.  These teams have survived because they do not operate on the basis of knucklehead theory.  Decisions about what offenses to run, who to play at various positions, how to scout other teams, the best practice regimen--all contribute to victories. And if a coach or general manager subscribe to knucklehead theory why then they will be like, say, the Detroit Lions who have never gone to a super bowl game, or the New York Jets who were last at a superbowl 44 years ago, or the Houston Texans who played this year as if they recruited from Chelm.

Teams like the Patriots and players like Peyton Manning make decisions that are thought out and are wise. Teams and players fail when they, metaphorically, charge for ice cubes based on some mind boggling set of notions.

I've written about this in the past, but I'll repeat here again, that an attraction of sport is that you cannot get away with knucklehead theory.  The four smartest teams in the NFL have survived. Smartest in terms of whom they recruited to play, how they planned for the game,  and how they make decisions during the course of the contests. It is no accident that two of the more cerebral quarterbacks in the history of football are combatants in the AFC championship game to be played in a few hours.  And it is no accident that this is the third time in three years that the cerebral Patriots are playing for a championship.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Get the Bag

In one of the classic 39 Honeymooner episodes Ralph is informed that a little old lady who he helped on and off the bus for years has named him in her will. Ralph thinks this is nice, but assumed she was a poor woman.  The lawyer informs Ralph that the woman was hardly poor, had fifty million dollars, and that besides Ralph there is only a ne'er do well nephew, a butler, and a maid, who are named in the will.

Ralph is ecstatic. Norton, his partner and friend, decides to bring a suitcase to the reading of the will because since Ralph is going to get 50 million dollars, he will need a vessel to put the dough in.  They go to the reading and during it the lawyer announces, repeatedly, that the kind bus driver Ralph Kramden has been left her "fortune."  Ralph is overjoyed. Shakes hands with Norton. Yells "I'm rich" each time he hears that he is to inherit the "fortune."  Ralph leans over to Norton and says, "Get the Bag" so that they will be able to lug away the fifty million dollars.  Turns out that "fortune" was the name of the old lady's bird and that is what she left for Ralph.

 Nevertheless when conversing with my Honeymooner cronies, "Get the Bag" has become shorthand for "I just came into some cash."

Last week after the first weekend of the playoffs I wrote the blog "Recalculating" in which I discussed my abysmal skill at predicting sports outcomes.  The time was apt for such self-effacing remarks as I had only predicted one of the four games correctly.   Despite this, I forged ahead and predicted this weekend's games.

Get the Bag.

 I got all four right, bringing my playoff record to a respectable 5-3.  This is the kind of winning streak that makes Las Vegas very happy since it encourages someone to think they know what they are doing.

 No fool I. I realize this is an aberration and that I don't know what I am doing. Winning in sports betting is about the worst thing that can happen to a bettor since you cannot win regularly but you may think you are a sage and bet your mortgage after the illusory success.  Then you lose your shirt.

That written, here are my predictions for next week.

Seattle over San Francisco--Seattle did not play all that well today, but their defense is very tough and the Seattle stadium is very difficult to play in. I think Kaepernick's only average without his running ability and I don't see him running over Seattle.  San Francisco probably played the weakest team this weekend.  I like Seattle and I think they will win by at least a touchdown.

Patriots over Broncos.  Tough to be objective on this one. I saw last night's game with my dad who probably wondered at its end if he had raised a maniac.  It has been a while since he has seen a game with me and I imagine he will look forward to watching next week's contest in peace.  I made him wear a Troy Brown uniform and hung a Patriots sweatshirt over the closet door.  So, maybe my analysis here is the stuff of desire as opposed to logic. I've been accused of this before.  But I like the Patriots to win.  The Broncos defense is not that impressive and the Patriots will score points against them. The Patriots will not commit the multiple offsides penalties that the Chargers had today.  I think Manning is the real deal, and the Denver receivers are better than the Pats' receivers, but I think that the Pats are better defensively and better coached.  I like the Patriots and if they are getting points I like them a lot.

Now, bet the other way and get the bag.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Last night I flew to West Palm Beach to visit my dad for a couple of days.  I left after work and with the connecting flight would be in the airport at about 11 and at his home by midnight.  In addition to the nourishment of the visit, an advantage would be to escape the tundra of the north for some Florida warmth.

As soon as we landed my cell phone beeped informing me (how--who knows) that there was a flood emergency in Palm Beach County.  Okay. Sounds like a storm. I have driven in weather before.  I look out the window and it is coming down heavily, but hey it is rain--not a blizzard.

I had arranged for a compact car to rent, but they apparently were out of them so I got a hoo hah SUV. I drive an Element in Boston that I bought in 2006 so it has none of the fancy gizmos new cars have. This baby looked like a space ship inside.

I drive the car out of the lot and the rain is coming down. It takes me a stretch to figure out which button is for the defroster and to make sure I know how the wiper works and I am off.  Good lord was it wet.  I get on I-95 and find myself behind a slowpoke going 40 miles an hour while trucks are passing me providing a car wash like experience for my windshield.  I stay behind the slowpoke because visibility is lousy and I figure at least I can stay behind him.

About six miles before my exit, traffic slows and then it stops. This is interstate I-95 usually with nothing but fast moving motorists, certainly at midnight, and the cars are stopped, crawling at best. I figure there was one helluva accident or there is an area so flooded that cars cannot go by.  Meanwhile the rain is not abating. 40 minutes later I get to the area affected.

No accident.  We are talking newsreel looking views of floods and cars floating. The cars still moving are merging into one lane that is not underwater. The SUV is a blessing because otherwise the carriage would be soaked.

Make it through to my exit and then the five miles west on Atlantic Avenue I feel like Kirk Douglas in Sea Hunt.  Finally pull into my dad's condo and into the driveway.  But I can't figure out how to shut the car off.  It had been brought around by the car rental attendant and he left it running. I can't find the key to shut it off.  I go to press what I think is the interior light above my head and hit instead the gizmo for the sun roof. I am swamped by rain coming in before I can press it correctly to close it.

Finally, I figure out how to shut the car off. I move to the trunk to get out my suitcase. I cant get there. Water in the driveway is up to my knees. I cannot get to the trunk.

This morning I woke up to the surreal site of water flooding the streets. No car can drive out of this development even an SUV.  I took a barefooted walk around and except for one meshugeneh on a bicycle and others congregating outside their garages, this was like a scene after a hurricane when nothing but ducks are moving.  Can't drink the water. Can't flush the toilet.

It should be better by this afternoon, but the good news is that if you have never been in such a situation the experience highlights once again the things we take for granted.  Being able to drive. Get groceries. Drink water. Paddle a canoe.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


On very cold mornings like the last few have been, I tend to run out to the driveway without my coat and start the car.  I then hustle back into the house, drink some coffee, gather my paraphernalia and--when I figure the car is sufficiently toasty and I am in appropriate winter wear--make my way down the driveway into the car.  Today I went through this ritual with a wrinkle. After I started the car, I went looking for something in my gym bag and figured I could extract it quickly.  Couldn't find it.  The car was running, blowing cold air into my face. It was thirteen degrees tops outside, and I was yanking out athletic socks and frozen tee shirts from the bag looking for my swimming goggles while growing icicles on various parts of my body.  Finally I gave up and grabbed the entire bag and ran--half frozen now myself--back into the house, intent on continuing the excavation of my gym bag in the relatively warm kitchen.

Typically on my drive into work I listen to an all news station which provides--on the threes-a report of traffic patterns. Why I do this is a mystery--since every day the report as it pertains to my beat is precisely the same.  Traffic is backed up from the tolls to the market--exactly the first few miles of my journey.  I think often that the guy, allegedly in a helicopter reporting the traffic flow, is in bed just saying what he said the day before. Nearly every day "traffic on the pike is backed up from the tolls to the market." I imagine the guy spewing this in his pajamas.

My ride home is rarely during rush hour so I move the station to a sports station or listen to a cd.  Last night, apparently, I had been listening to espn as I pulled back into the driveway.

This all is preamble.

This morning after I started the car and went foraging through tee shirts, bathing suits, sneakers, athletic socks, jars of "icy hot"--in pursuit of swimming goggles I overhear radio chatter above my chattering gums about Bobby Petrino.

The BCS can get me riled up as readers of my blog will note. However, not much gets my goat more than pontificating hypocrites opining about others' private behaviors.  I don't kid myself into thinking that readers of my blogs recall them, but one of my more popular entries was called, Twisted Sinews of thy Heart, about Tiger Woods. I can see the numbers of people who read blogs and for reasons that likely relate less to my philosophy and more to the fact that the title is from a famous poem, there is a lot of traffic to that blog.  My comments this morning will be similar.

The infuriating chatter (while I was concurrently aggravated seeking my goggles in weather) was about the story about Bobby Petrino's pending hire as the coach of the Louisville Cardinals.  Petrino had ignominiously been fired from a previous job because he was discovered to be having an affair.  Now the espn experts were conversing about whether it was appropriate to hire Petrino for this new job given his past and, also, whether athletes may be reluctant to attend the university because of Petrino's activities.

Did this guy conspire to shut down the government and cost taxpayers billions of dollars? Did he lie to the country about bogus weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country in order to induce parents to send their kids to their deaths? Did he irresponsibly run banks into the ground costing people their life savings in 2008 when all hell broke loose on the stock market? Did he advocate for open purchasing of automatic weapons the morning after the massacre at Newtown?

No. He had consensual sex outside of marriage.  If you want to excoriate coaches start with those who lie to recruits or berate players or are indifferent to the safety and education of the student-athletes.

There are only a few people who are aware of the nuances of the Petrino situation.  Petrino, his spouse, and his lover.  Others just do not know.

We are embarrassingly immature when it comes to matters of intimacy.  And two-faced. People (go figure) enjoy sex.  And people have sex.  It's as predictable as rush hour traffic patterns. And who people have sex with--as long as it is consensual--is the business of only those people who are involved.  You want to make Petrino a pariah because he violated his marital vows, fine--as long as you are the spouse.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Johnny Football

I read today that Johnny Manziel, nicknamed Johnny Football, has decided to enter the NFL draft. Manziel as a freshman impressed so many with his skills that he earned his sobriquet and also the Heisman. This year, despite summer activity reflecting sophomoric behavior, Manziel continued to excel on the field.

So now after two years of college football he has decided to play professionally. Will he be successful?

My vote is no.  Quarterback is a position that changes when one goes from college to the pros.  Highly touted college quarterbacks often do not do well as professionals.  Matt Leinart for one, Ryan Leaf another.  If you want to go back a ways Steve Spurrier is a third.  And on the other hand, less heralded college quarterbacks become stars in the pros--Tom Brady and Johnny Unitas for examples.

The asset of a scrambler and playmaker in college is not always an asset in the professional ranks.  Could anyone have demonstrated greater skill than Vince Young in the USC-Texas championship game of 2006. He was virtually unstoppable as a passer and runner. He had one good year professionally and now is out of the league.  Andre Ware and Tim Tebow are two other Heisman trophy winners who did not have much in the way of professional careers.

The most important attributes for an NFL quarterback are intelligence, backbone, maturity, and industry.  Raw skill is a limited value. Pat Sullivan was a Heisman trophy winner with a great arm. Never had much of a career.  Drew Bledsoe could throw footballs like darts. Ty Detmer wowed all with his ability to make something out of nothing for BYU.  Yet neither Bledsoe or Detmer made much of a dent as a professional.

I don't see Manziel having the goods to make it as a pro for any extended period of time. Leaving college early may earn him some money, but I think it will prove to be a mistake. If he were to stay in school for a while he might develop the maturity of a Peyton Manning or Brady and that is what could make him great.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I am not a fan of the BCS.  It is a bogus way to determine a national champion.

I stand by that.

However, tonight's game between Auburn and FSU was one for the ages.  This one goes down with the Texas USC contest of 2006 and the Nebraska--Miami game in 1984 or 1985.  Great game.

Monday, January 6, 2014


My predictions this weekend, not made against the spread, left something to be desired.  Only one out of four, selecting San Francisco over Green Bay.

Kansas City could not hold onto a 28 point lead when so many of their players kept going out with injuries. The Chargers surprised me. I know the Bengals tendencies in the playoffs, but I thought playing at home they would prevail. I did not count on Andy Dalton, the Bengals quarterback, playing like my fraternity quarterback in intramurals.  From hunger.  I fell asleep during the Saints game, so perhaps they prevailed despite my prognostications because I was not awake enough to throw the whammy on them in the last seconds.

So, as the GPS robot says, recalculating for the next round.

I should do better this week.  I did hear a buddy in the locker room tell me that his wife predicts the games better by going on nicknames.  When the Bears play the Eagles, she figures a Bear should be able to take an Eagle and goes with the Bears.  This logic allowed her to beat her knowledgeable husband in a friendly contest of who would do better than the other during the season. I will rely on my wisdom and not such frivolous approaches. After all, I picked 25% of the games right last weekend.

Here we go.

Patriots over the Colts. Andrew Luck was indeed lucky in the comeback win.  He may think he is Zeus now and he will be brought down to the realm of the mortals against the Patriots.

Broncos over the Chargers. I would love the Chargers to win, but I think their incredible good luck these past two weeks will have run its course. They are in the playoffs because a kicker missed a gimme field goal in the regular season finale. They advanced because the Chiefs' main stud went out in the first quarter and the back up went out in the second half. By the time the game ended The Chiefs were calling people out of the stands.  Chargers run out of volts next weekend.

Seattle over the Saints--Time to say Kaddish for the Saints.  They just beat the Eagles.  Russell Wilson will be too much as will the crowd in Seattle.

SF over Carolina. Carolina shot its game during the regular season. They are not ready for prime time. Cam Newton is out of miracles.

Now if you are wise go bet the other way on all of these.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


I have, annually, expressed my opinion that the BCS, Bowl Championship Series, is an inaccurate label for what transpires in college football at the end of the season.  It is not a championship series. It is a series of meaningless exhibition games.

The last two nights there have been some close contests. Tonight in the Cotton Bowl Missouri beat Oklahoma State in a back and forth game that was not decided until the last minute. At the same time Clemson defeated Ohio State in a tight game. And last night Alabama succumbed to Oklahoma--again a closely contested battle.

All three of these have had nothing to do with any championship, yet are part of what is called the Bowl Championship Series. The alleged championship game will be played on Monday night. If Alabama, or Ohio State, or Oklahoma State--the losers of the three exhibition games these past two nights, had an opportunity to compete for the championship, all three would have had a legitimate chance to be victorious. But they will not get to play for a championship because two other teams were selected to compete.

There is another factor that dilutes the value of these games.  In college football every play is reviewable. That is, whenever there is a referee's decision that could be in doubt, the game is stopped so a review of a recording can determine if the call on the field is accurate. This makes the games interminable.  The Cotton Bowl tonight began airing at 8 pm Eastern. It ended at 1230 a.m. One hour of actual playing time, four and a half hours from beginning to the end.

Big time college football has to change. There will be a four game playoff next year which is better than the current circus, but still there needs to be some reconsideration of rules.  All plays should not be reviewable.  The clock should not stop after every first down.  The referees should not have a summit meeting to determine if two or three seconds went off the clock in the first three quarters.

The point is that in the last two nights we have had some very closely contested games between excellent teams. And they were (a) interminable and (b) completely meaningless in terms of determining a championship. A Championship Series it is not.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Goldilocks--Book Review

Ed McBain is the author of the 87th precinct novels called-- for a reason I cannot remember-- "police procedurals." They are mysteries that are solved by the cops of the 87th precinct in a town that is not called New York, but is.  Usually the novels involve more than one crime that are, to some extent, linked.  Not always, but often enough, I enjoy reading these Procedurals. (Kiss is a particularly good one).

I was in the library before the end of the year looking for things to read during the break. I saw a McBain novel called Goldilocks.  On the cover the publicity read something like "by Ed McBain author of the 87th precinct novels."

 So I picked up Goldilocks and checked it out.

McBain is a prolific author.  He also goes by Evan Hunter, author of Blackboard Jungle and Last Summer--a novel I read in the mid 70s and still remember the ending--vividly. If you read it, you would remember the ending too.  What I had forgotten when I picked up Goldilocks is that McBain is also the author of another series featuring a lawyer named Matthew Hope.

Each of the Hope novels has a title from a nursery rhyme or fairy tale.  I'd a read of couple and found them to be just okay. If I had put two and two together and realized that Goldilocks was a Hope novel and the publisher was just putting out advertising that this book was by the same author who writes the 87th precinct novels, I might not have taken the book out.

I am glad I did not put two and two together. This was a good read and, now that I am done, I will likely take out another in the near future.

In this one, Hope is called to the scene of a crime by a client.  Someone has murdered the client's second wife and his two young children by this spouse.  Hope asks the client point blank if he is the killer and the client says he is not.  The case is complex.  The client's first wife and children from that union are part of the story and all have a beef. The client does not have a solid alibi. There's a mistress involved, a confession that makes no sense, and a surprising affair.   Meanwhile Hope himself is mired in a complicated relationship that mirrors the issues related to his client's case.  To make matters more intriguing is that some biographical notes from McBain/Hunter make one wonder if the author's life has not been complicated by similar considerations.

Woke up in the middle of the night when I was about done with this book and a bunch of notions were banging around in my head, several of which were fueled by the story.

It is a short book and an easy read, but the issues are not simple.  If you like whodunits, this is a good one and it may make you think of your own behavior and potential complications.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Again, as we begin the NFL postseason, the New England Patriots are seeded second and poised for a run to the SuperBowl. I read a stat in yesterday's Globe that was surprising.  The Patriots have had 13 consecutive winning seasons. The team that is closest, the Green Bay Packers, has had 4.

It has been a joy to root for the Patriots these last years. The team plays so intelligently.  Often with far less talent they outscore opponents by outthinking and outworking them.

Some predictions for the playoffs reflecting my affections.

Round 1
KC over Indianapolis
Cincinnati over San Diego

Eagles over Saints
49ers over Packers

Round 2
KC over Denver
Patriots over Cincinnati

49ers over Seahawks
Carolina over Eagles

Round 3
Patriots over KC
Carolina over 49ers

Super Bowl
Patriots over Carolina.

Caveat--My team, The Raccoon Lodge, came in 52nd out of 60 teams in this year's regular season prediction competition.

New Years Day

Saw an old tennis crony in the locker room this afternoon.  We used to be regular combatants but now he has gotten better while I have gotten long in the tooth.  He asked me if I had made any new year resolutions. I said I had not and quipped that this way I know I will not break any.  Another locker room denizen opined that he liked my thinking.  Can't break any if you don't make any.

I was just saying that, though.  It is true that I had not sat down and made any New Year resolutions, but it is not true that I did this to ensure that I did not break any.

I noticed some clever new year comments on facebook.  My favorite was along the lines that in 2014 don't just dream about what you would like, make it happen.  That is, to my way of thinking, a good one.  Our impossible dreams come true when we make the effort to make them come true. I want to make sure to keep that in the front of my mind this year.

The words to "If" are good ones to recall as we go around the track.

If we can dream and not make dreams our master
If we can think and not make thoughts our aim...

If we can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run...

Happy New Year.