Friday, January 31, 2014

It's A Sucker Bet Weekend!

I learned a lot living in Vegas.  I discerned that there are certain people who should NEVER reside in that metro and others who, because they so hate to lose money, function quite well.  Luckily I fell into the select few who are destined to remember every $20 loss and the exact whereabouts of the establishment that took it from me.  Inveterate gamblers know they should give the Strip a wide birth but somehow can't resist making the world's largest sand trap their home.  They're everywhere.  You see them at the blackjack tables, in poker rooms, at the slot machines and--most often--at the race and sports books.  There, where hope and common sense go to die, they stand in line at the window with grocery money in hand.   Desperation drips off of them as they plunk down their cash.   Just ONE lucky break is the ticket to solvency.  The quay to put money on a horse or a game that is a "lock" has more anxiety and twitch than a pimp at an IRS audit. 

Super Bowl weekend is to sports betting and sports books as New Year's Eve is to drinking. It's amature night.  Even people who pay no attention to football during the season will gamble on the big game.  In Las Vegas, more bets are placed on the Super Bowl than any other sporting event.  Close to $100 million was wagered last year.  

The important fact to note is this:  If the public could pick winners, there would be no bookies.
That's why the bookies got to keep $7.2 million of the $100 million in 2013.  It's a fairly simple proposition.  You merely set a "line", or number of points, that will attract an equal amount of betting on the contending teams.  (At present a bettor picking Seattle to win the bowl is spotted 2.5 points because more money is currently coming in from Denver fans.)  Fans tend to bet from the heart instead of the head so it's difficult to predict how the initial betting will unfold.  In this case points have been added to the Seahawks to bring in more Seattle fans.  The more money bet, the more "juice" or "vig"for the sports book.  Vigorish, or "vig", is the 10 percent fee for handling that all bookies charge.

Where it gets interesting (and where the books pad their Super take) is with the special propositions that scream Sucker Bet.  Wagers on the number of times Peyton Manning yells "Omaha", the amount of time opera singer Renee Fleming takes to sing the national anthem (the over/under is 2 minutes 30 seconds) and the temperature ot MetLife Stadium at the time of kick-off are just a few of the exotic sucker bets.  Many casino sports books will put these all together on a "parlay" card where you can gamble on a combination of these exotic "props".

Personally I believe you get more for your money betting on sports as opposed to card, dice, or slot games available in Las Vegas.  A sports wager gives you the opportunity to bet with the house and, more important, gives you a rooting interest in an event that doesn't expire until the game has been played.  Don't get me wrong.  There are virtually NO people who get rich betting on sports.  Sin City is loaded with the perpetually self delusional who at some point come to realize that those fancy hotels and casinos weren't built in the middle of a dessert by corporations expecting to lose money.

FYI, I'm taking Seattle and the points, but am picking the Denver fans to kick some serious ass in the parking lot fights afterward.

Sports books, where you can smell the desperation in the air.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm NOT a Belieber! and Other Stupid Stuff

As usual this was one of those weeks where many things demand my attention…
Just between you, me, and a bottle of bourbon, how can we not help but be flag waving Americans when we wake to hear that the simple-minded singing Canadian carbuncle, Justin Bieber, has been arrested in Miami for drag racing, driving drunk, and being a colossal 19 year-old pain in the ass.  This little nitwit has way too much discretionary income!  He gets arrested in a rented Lamborghini that he can't get out of second gear after a night of extended underage drinking at a South Beach strip club.  He has no money for bail thanks to some very talented pole workers who earlier managed to make several hundred of his one dollar bills disappear into their undies.   Yet, as you can see by his dippy mug shot,  the little bastard had enough hair "product" to add about a foot to his diminished stature.  Who does he think he is?  Sinatra?  We need to send this steaming pile of sled dog dookie back to the Yukon where he can hang with his husky buddy, Toronto's Mayor Rockin' Rob Ford.
Send us your oil Canada, not this no talent midget whose singing is reminiscent of a basset hound getting an enema.

A barely noted result of the war in Syria is the booming market in cumin now being enjoyed by India.  It was news to me that Syria was India's largest rival in exporting the spice that is a key ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.  Apparently this godawful smelly condiment now sells for around two bucks a pound instead of the former price of $1.48.  Good for India, I guess.  Personally, I hate the stuff.  They can slip a pinch of it into my order at a Mexican restaurant but the maximum strength dosage present in Indian food keeps me on the other side of the Chuckwagon.  How could anybody eat a piping hot plate full of what smells like locker ripened gym shorts?  I'm not fussy but I can pretty much guarantee that it's not likely I'll be caught face down in a bowl of curry at Jai's Taj Mahal in this lifetime.  My wife and I once briefly rented an apartment on East Sixth Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side only later to learn the hard way why it's referred to as "Little India".  The curse of the curry still haunts me.  May the shortage continue.

From the "Where was this invention twenty years ago?" department we have the new matchbook-sized camera called the Narrative.  This little beauty costs $279 and is about the size of an Apple Ipod nano.  All you need do is clip the Narrative to the front of your shirt or blouse and it simply takes a photo of whatever is in front of you every 30 seconds.  That works out to more than 2000 snaps a day that can be downloaded to your phone or computer to provide evidence of an interesting or not so interesting day.
I can see this item becoming a key piece of evidence in divorce proceedings and other forms of tort bar entertainment.   Wayward husbands beware!  It haunts me still to recall cocktail fueled conversations in the 1970's and 80's with my old pal Bill Moffitt regarding this camera idea.   At that time we were merely speculating on the cost of hiring a full time video crew to follow us around so that we might be able to recall what we had done on a given day and thus defend ourselves or run for cover, whichever seemed prudent. Bill and I deemed it a stroke of genius at the time.  Later we determined that it was merely a stroke with no genius to it.  We quickly scrapped the idea not so much because of the cost but  to leave open the option of seeking public office at some time in the future.  
Yes, we were drunk.
The "Narrative"…the ultimate tattletale.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Black & White Winner

I don't know if it's necessary to be a corn fed product of America's Great Plains to fully comprehend the truth and beauty that is Alexander Payne's movie Nebraska, but if you are,  prepare to be "you betcha" knocked out by what a gem it is.  This is a film that, no matter how long you've been gone, will pull you back to the black and white bare bones reality of life on the frozen and dusty plains of America where the crops, weather and what's for dinner are the conversational staples.
The picture has earned an Oscar nomination as have Bruce Dern who plays lead character, Woody, and the wonderful actress, June Squibb, who nearly steals the picture as his long suffering wife.  Also checking in with fine performances are Will Forte as David, Woody's son, and the always dependable Stacy Keach as his oily former business partner.

Like Sideways, another brilliant effort by Payne, Nebraska is essentially a road movie.  Woodrow "Woody" Grant is on a mission.  He is in his 80's and, after getting a letter advising him that he "may have already won" a million dollars in a magazine sales sweepstakes, has decided to by God hit the road from his home in Billings, Montana  and make the trek to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his loot.  Everybody tries to tell him that the deal is a scam but he is determined to get his due.  "They can't say it if it's not true."
Since he's too feeble to drive to Lincoln he has decided to walk.  David, who is hurting from a recent break up with his girlfriend, takes time off from his job selling stereo gear to drive his dad to the headquarters of the prize company.  Along the way there is a less than satisfying stop at Mount Rushmore and an ill conceived visit to Woody's hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska.  It is in Hawthorne where the movie becomes Academy Award material.  Payne captures the essence of the place in all its pencil sketch black and white monotony.  From the jar of pickled eggs on the bar at the Sodbuster Bar & Grill to all the overweight spawn of the prairie eager to re-connect with the newly "rich" Woody, it  all rings true   if you've been there.  The crops, the weather and what to eat, rinse and repeat.
There are no car chases or gunfights and, unless you count June Squibb's character lifting her dress in the cemetery to show an old boyfriend "what he missed", there is no sex.  It is undoubtedly "too slow" for anyone under the age of forty and a treasure for those of us who have grown more reflective with our years.

Nebraska is a victory lap for Dern and Squibb.  Both are real pros who have for too long turned in superb work with little recognition.  Do yourself a favor and see this movie.  It's hard to find and the crowds are small but it's worth it.  I think you'll find yourself joining me in rooting for these actors and this jewel of a film on Oscar night.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hang A Star On This All Star

"And you'll be working with Jerry Coleman the former Yankee.  He does sports at 4:30 and 5:30 on your show."  This was being said to me in a bar by the nicest man in radio, Jerry Jackson, the manager of KOGO in San Diego.  Jerry was in Tampa checking out my morning radio program on WDAE and had just offered me the afternoon drive slot on KOGO.  Unknown to me he had been in town for a week listening to the program and had decided to give me a call to see if I was interested in moving west.  I was.  He sprung the Coleman feature on me as we roughed out a deal on a cocktail napkin in a Clearwater Beach saloon.  I was somewhat aware of Jerry Coleman from his days in pinstripes but as a longtime fan of the Detroit Tigers I had hated everything even remotely connected to the Bronx Bombers since I was in fourth grade.  The Yankees had ruined my childhood!  The Tigers were always out of pennant contention by July Fourth and the Yanks never seemed to miss getting their ticket punched for the Fall Classic.  Jerry Coleman?  I guessed that would be okay.  He was, after all, the play-by-play voice of the Padres and KOGO was the team's home station.  I had no idea I was about to meet one of the finest men of the Greatest Generation.

My first day on the air in San Diego was in August of 1976 and, shortly after getting the first hour of the first day out of the way,  into the studio strolled Jerry Coleman with a Padre cap and some Padre paraphernalia for my kids.  I have no recollection of what he said but do remember that he made me feel right at home and that he was glad we'd be working together.  He was one of those guys that you take to from the handshake.  I liked him immediately.  The two years we had together before the Padres, and Jerry, left for another station in the market, were a couple of the best years I had in the radio business.  We saw each other nearly every afternoon unless the Padres were on the road and Jerry would do his sportscast from another National League city.  Each day as he ended his reports he would lock out with, "for KOGO sports I'm Jerry Coleman and once again here's my good friend, Ken Copper."  It warmed me to hear it and I hoped he meant it because I sure thought of him as a friend--a good one.

Jerry has been on my mind a lot the past couple of days.  He passed away on Sunday from injuries  suffered in a fall at his home in La Jolla this past December.  He was 89.  
I don't know why but I always thought he would be around forever.   More than a few folks felt the same way.  He was Superman!  A scrappy poor kid from San Francisco who, in spite of a rough home life,  made the big leagues with no less than the  New York Yankees.   He was also a decorated Marine colonel who flew over 120 combat missions in two wars--World War II and Korea.   A Hall of Fame broadcaster with the Yankees, Angels,  Padres, and CBS radio,  Jerry is also enshrined in four other halls and, if they had one, he'd be front and center for the Good Friend Hall of Fame.  
Two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 13 Air Medals, 3 Navy Citations
Baseball fans often speculate just how great Jerry's career could have been had it not put it on hold for WW II and again for the Korean War.   As it was he played on five World Series champions, was the American League rookie of the year in 1949, World Series MVP in 1950 and an American League All Star second baseman several times.

Jerry Coleman came to San Diego in 1972 to become the voice of the Padres.  He stayed for 42 years.  It was a perfect fit.  The fans loved him and the fact that San Diego is home to such a large contingent of Naval and Marine personnel became icing on the cake for a decorated combat veteran who neither smoked or drank and maintained his Marine fitness regime until the end.

Jerry Coleman, even more than Padre great Tony Gywnn, was Mr. San Diego.  He came, he saw a lot of bad baseball and whenever the usually hapless Pads managed to dazzle him with their play he hung a star out the broadcast booth window as he exclaimed, "Oh doctor, you can hang a star on that baby!"

Jerry's credo was simple and elegant.  Often he said, "There are only two important things in life: the people who you love and who love you, and your country."

A gentleman, husband, father, all star broadcaster, Hall of Fame baseball player and loyal friend, Jerry Coleman's was truly a life to HANG A STAR ON.
Rest easy Colonel, your country thanks you for your service.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nanny State Nonsense

2014 is shaping up to be not so friendly to those of us residing in the state of California who don't respond positively to being BOSSED AROUND.  Just glancing at this morning's paper makes me wonder why anyone who values freedom and possesses a lick of common sense would continue to live in this state.  Jerry Brown and his posse of "progressive" pantloads have, as of January 1, imposed a whole new catechism of liberal do's and don'ts that take "mother may I?" to an entirely new bigtop of BS.

Beginning this year Governor Moonbeam and the state legislature have presented Californians with about 800 new laws and some of them are dumber than any lyric ever composed by the always insipid James Blunt.

For those of you wise enough to live elsewhere, here are just a few of the legislative gems we residents of the once Golden State will be forced to abide:

Henceforth motorists may order a special $50 "Snoopy" license plate to raise money for museums. (It's not required yet, but give them time.)

Motorists now must leave three feet of space when passing bicyclists.

Purchasers of rifles and shotguns will have to pass a written safety test similar to the one now required of people buying handguns.  (Yeah, that'll stop the loons.)

Hunters can no longer use lead ammunition.  (The animals will still be just as dead, but you'll feel better about it.)

Illegal immigrants are now eligible for driver's licenses, thus giving them the opportunity to be both legal and illegal at the same time.

Employers can be fined up to $10,000 and lose their business license if they report or threaten to report the nonlegal status of a worker who files a complaint over unsafe conditions or sexual harassment. (Remember, these people aren't supposed to be here in the first place.)

MY CURRENT FAVORITE:  Illegal aliens may practice law under certain conditions. This dandy bit of brain dead pandering comes to us courtesy of ASSemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat (naturally) of San Diego.   Of course it is still impossible for a LEGAL resident convicted of a felony to practice law in California, but logic never is a consideration in La La Land.

On the educational front…
School districts must adopt policies allowing transgender students to use the restrooms and locker facilities of their choosing, as well as play on the sports team of their choice.  Let's see a show of hands.   How many of you think this may provide just a bit of fun for teenage boys?

Homeowners whose residence is more than 20 years old will have to install low flow plumbing fixtures when they do any major remodeling.  (Just remember to flush twice!)

Mattress buyers will pay a fee to recycle their old mattress just like they do now for tires and e-waste.  (Talk about taking the fun out of mattress polo.)

Children can have more than two parents.  (Maybe at least one of them will be cool.)

Residential care facility operators must include instruction on how to help elderly residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  (Excuse me, but how many people in a care facility can even FIND their fun zone let alone know which team they're on.)

And finally…
Breweries will be able to refill any consumer-provided "growler" container with beer to go, even though it may not be from that brewer.  (Okay, they made one good law.)

There you have just a few of the real beauties the state of California has decided will enhance the lives of its nearly 40 million citizens in a brand new year.  

Thanks Sacramento!  At least you've inspired this correspondent to come up with a resolution for the new year.  In 2014 I resolve to leave a smoking patch of rubber at the California state line.  If Jerry needs me, I'll be in Idaho.