Cause? Effect?

According to ESPN.com, Ricky Williams tested positive for pot again. Obviously, that’s not news. The only reason I’m posting about it is because of this unintentionally funny paragraph from the story:

“Falling off the wagon is part of rehab,” a source said. “Based on the medical evidence in Ricky’s case, the doctors say it’s too early to come back. He had the positive test last month. Remember, he’s been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder — that’s a real disease and a good percentage of those folks self-medicate with substances like marijuana, often at the moment they are about to have a high level of social interaction.”

Blame it on the rain

The Colts win left me at 2-9 for this year’s Playoff “Challenge”, while Ron Rosenbaum went 6-5. More importantly, I’m out $50 after the Bears failed to cover. Of course, devoted readers of this site — seek help! — may recall such remarks as

Rex Grossman looks like the most confused quarterback in the NFL, with literally no ability to grasp when the pocket is collapsing.

and

Rex Grossman is a terrible QB.

Unfortunately, I had to stick with Chicago +7 to have any chance at salvaging some pride in this playoff debacle, and the city of big shoulders let me down. On the plus side, their wind chill is about 20 degrees worse than the wind chill here in NJ right now. And maybe I’ll stop getting a bazillion google hits from people trying to find out if Rex Grossman is Jewish. (He’s not.)

At least our little party went well. Amy’s red beans and rice and her king cake bestowed a nice Mardi Gras vibe, and our company was top-notch. We didn’t take any pictures during the festivities, but Amy will soon post some shots of the food preparation and display. I even broke out my framed copy of the Super Bowl Shuffle 12-inch record, just to get some Chicago mojo going.

Oh, well. Time to get ready to fail at my March Madness picks. . .

(P.S.: Many thanks to Ron Rosenbaum for being a good sport and participating in the NFL Playoff Challenge. Pick up his new book, The Shakespeare Wars, and/or his tremendous collection of writing, The Secret Parts of Fortune. You’ll thank me.)

Gambling is the Devil’s work

That said, I’ve got $50 on the Bears +7. Ron Rosenbaum took the Colts, which is his privilege given that he trounced my ass in our inaugural football challenge.

I forgot to e-mail Thane Rosenbaum about his pick for the big game, but I’m hoping he’ll post a comment about it (hint, hint). Meanwhile, I have to get back to housecleaning, so the place will be in mildly presentable order for our Super Bowl + Mardi Gras party tonight.

Go, Colts! (just win by a figgie, alright?)

SBXLI Gives You Wiiiiiiings!

Last night, flipping through Sports Illustrated, I saw an ad for “authentic Super Bowl XLI” gear, which included a jersey with “SBXLI” on the back.

For a moment, I thought Superman’s nemesis finally got through the 5th dimension conference championships and made it to the big game. But then I remembered that he’s got no arm.

Anyway, our office had its Super Bowl party this afternoon. Unfortunately, almost half the staff was out traveling or taking personal days, so we ended up with a ton of leftovers. I became the recipient of a massive tray of buffalo wings, which I now have to keep “fresh” till Sunday.

I don’t really have much to say, but I really wanted to use that headline, and the Mxyzptlk joke.

2006-2007 NFL Playoff Challenge, round 3: the post-mortem

Funnily enough, when I was posting that Montaigne quote earlier, I didn’t even think about how it relates to my near-complete inability to get anything right with football picks. But 0-for-2 I went, dear readers! And now I’ve dragged Thane Rosenbaum into my web of crappy picks!

It’s tough when the point-spread is off by an order of magnitude, but that’s how badly we (including my challenger) blew the Saints/Bears game. The Saints picked a heck of a time to pull a stinker, with turnovers galore and intentional grounding in the end zone. I give plenty of credit to Chicago’s defense and running game, and virtually none to its QB, who demonstrated yet again that he has no idea when pressure is coming.

But that’s the end of the line for New Orleans, who did a great job getting this far. I even cheered when Reggie Bush hot-dogged his way into the end zone. Sure, showboating isn’t sportsmanlike, but with Joe Horn out, someone had to step up for the Saints!

I was sad to see the Saints get whupped, especially when it felt like they were victims of their own mistakes. That’s taking credit away from the Bears, who forced a ton of turnovers and were able to play with far fewer mistakes.

However, I’ve never been so happy to lose another pick as I was when the Colts knocked off the Patriots! Amy & I tuned out when it got to 21-3, figuring we’d watch the remainder of our latest Netflix movie, Living in Oblivion. We checked the game out after the movie and found that it was 28-21. Amy wasn’t convinced, but I figured that at least we’d see an amazing finish for Tom Brady (while hoping that we’d see the Colts finally pull out the big win).

I actually believed the Colts would pull it off when they scored their last TD. I also laughed about how Peyton would not put the ball in the air for the last few plays and risk an INT. And I cheered when Indy intercepted Brady with 20 seconds left, icing the win. It was one of those finishes like in a horror movie, where you don’t believe the killer is really dead.
Anyway, this weekend drops me to 2-8 for the playoffs, which is godawful embarrassing. Ron is 5-5, which isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but beats my ass.

We’ll try to come up with some entertaining side-bets for the Super Bowl (party at my house!).

2006-2007 NFL Playoff Challenge, round 3

I had bigger balls in the first half of this decade. Back then, I found it easy to call literary people with no entree beyond, “I’m a small press publisher and I’d like to talk to you about a project I’m working on.”

That opening got me into phone conversations with Greil Marcus, Harold Bloom, Guy Davenport, Ron Rosenbaum, William Gass, Jason Epstein and Grant Morrison (okay, just with his answering machine). Even before those days, I found it pretty easy to pick up a phone and try to reach William Gaddis and David Gates (the latter of whom I’ve enjoyed occasional conversation with for more than a decade).

But I haven’t called a writer out of the blue in a few years, mainly because I’m not a publisher any longer. The other reason is that there aren’t many contemporary writers I’m interested in talking to. So yesterday morning, when I remembered that I promised you readers that I’d try to get NFL playoff predictions from author and law professor Thane Rosenbaum, I was a little nervous.

It only took me 30 seconds to get Thane’s contact info, so I called him shortly before lunch yesterday and left him an absurd pitch on his voice-mail: “Hi, Professor Rosenbaum! My name’s Gil Roth. I’m a . . . writer? and I’m in the midst of, um, an NFL playoff challenge with an acquaintance of yours, Ron Rosenbaum. Last week, Ron decided to guess what Philip Roth’s football predictions would be, so I wrote that I’d try to get your predictions for this week’s games, in order to up the ante.”

I rambled on for a bit, figured that I sounded like a lunatic, especially when I remarked on how I could understand if he’s not able to call back after sundown, since I wasn’t sure if he’s an observant Jew or an inobservant one like me.

You can imagine my surprise when he actually called back. He thought the idea sounded like a hoot, and thought it’d be funny to tweak his buddy Ron with a set of alternate-Rosenbaum picks. At first, I wasn’t sure if Thane was actually a football fan, which would’ve made this challenge even more challenging. Fortunately, when I mentioned Ron’s comment about how Philip Roth would bet on the Bears because of the Chicago connection and because of QB Rex Grossman’s name, Thane remarked, “But Rex Grossman isn’t Jewish. I think their kicker, Robbie Gould is Jewish. So was that kick returner for the Eagles: Bloom, I think his name was. Or was he on the Broncos this year?”

So we talked Jews-in-sports for a few minutes, and he promised to get me his Conference Championship Weekend predictions this morning. So, without further ado, here are the playoff picks of Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, John Whelan Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Fordham Law School, and all-around good sport for helping me out on this week’s playoff challenge:

Yes, I am the Thane Rosenbaum whose football picks have been solicited by my new friend, Gil Roth, in his ongoing friendly-wager, cyber-gridiron contest with my longtime friend, Ron Rosenbaum.

First, a disclaimer: Ron and I are not related, even though we share a surname, a lecture agent, and similar literary interests and worldly obsessions, and many people have confused us over the years as being the same writer. I am desperately in need of a brother and I would very much like it to be him, but he has, over the years, made it clear that friends is the closest we are ever going to get, so I am not choosing sides in this contest between Gil and Ron. The picks are my own and the chips will fall wherever they must regardless of how it alters the odds or tips the scale to one side or the other. Besides, the odds of me being dragged into this weekly, gentlemanly sport were unlikely from the outset.

Second, one must admire Gil Roth for having displayed such a dramatic flair for one-upsmanship, since Ron Rosenbaum merely sought to guess Philp Roth’s picks, whereas Gil took the initiative of actually producing Thane Rosenbaum (a la Marshall Macluhan, in Annie Hall) and having him actually post picks of his own. Such resourcefulness from such an enterprising blogger should change the point spread right there. (Note to Ron, which he already knows, by the way: Philip Roth is notoriously reclusive, and his sport is baseball, not football, as any Swede Lvov fan well knows, and I am a far easier and less remote blog poster than Philip Roth, so you inadvertently raised the stakes on Gil and gave him an opening which he easily filled by getting a low-rent writer such as myself. You would have had an easier time guessing the football picks of Hyman Roth, from The Godfather II.)

Back to the picks!

BEARS by 2.5 points over Saints. The Saints are this year’s destiny team. Home field advantage won’t help the Bears when facing a team that was homeless last year and has all the spiritual and metaphorical benefit behind them. I say take the 2.5 points and the Saints and expect last year’s Heisman winner to earn the pose and explode in the Super Bowl.

COLTS by 3 points over Patriots. Brady is the best money player in the NFL, and my best friend, Danny Goldhagen, and his son, are huge Patriot fans. I can’t, out of filial loyalty (you see, Ron?), not take the Pats and accept the points and expect to see the Patriots play in their fourth Super Bowl in six years. Peyton Manning is a great player, and his head is better than his brother’s, I’m afraid, but the Patriots will these things to happen, and anyone who has read my writings know that I am a big fan of the spiritual universe.

Well, I gotta say that Thane’s picks mirror mine this week. I was worried that Ron would post his picks before I do, since my only chance of tying up this contest is to go 3-0 the rest of the way, while Ron goes 0-3. But I decided not to be unsportsmanlike and just pick against him. Instead, I’m going with my heart (Geaux, Saints!) and my brain (“Never pick against Belichick.”) by picking both road-dogs in the conference championships.

In a perfect world, the Saints will win in a rout, while the Pats will cover but lose, setting the stage for Peyton Manning to get defeated by his hometown team in Superbowl XLI.

And many thanks to Thane for coming through on this week’s picks! I’m hoping we can entice him to offer up his Superbowl predictions in two weeks, so make with the flattery, dear readers!

2006-2007 NFL Playoff Challenge, round 2: the post-mortem

Several years ago, I attended a wedding in Las Vegas. It was my first trip visit longer than 24 hours, and I thought it would be fun to gamble on sports. See, I’ve never been a cards or dice guy, but I do allege to know something about pro sports.

Well, the NBA, at least. See, each morning that long weekend, I would walk through the sports book on the way outside. I’d pick up the line for that night’s games and, like The Matrix, I would see all the numbers tumbling on a dark background. (I’d also start acting like I was made of wood, but that’s another story.)

The upshot is that it was the NBA season (early April) there was at least one game each morning that I knew for sure was an easy bet. So I put $50 on a game that Friday, and came up aces. Saturday, I saw one sure thing, put down another $50.

The other wedding guests started to laugh about these picks. At the rehearsal dinner on Saturday, we headed out to the bar to catch the results of my bet against the Vancouver Grizzlies, who were inexplicably favored in their last-ever game in Vancouver. I won again.

Sunday morning, the challenge was on. There were three games that caught my attention. I announced, “I’m putting down $50 on each [no teaser], and if I pull off all three, then I’m going to quit my job, move here, and gamble full time.

“And within three weeks, I’ll be giving handjobs in an alleyway for crack money.”

Wedding evening rolled around, and afterward, the guests kept trying to haul me over to a bar to catch the remaining games. I’d already won the afternoon bet, so I only needed two more wins. Now, I know $50 per bet isn’t a ton, but it was the idea that mattered.

(Especially since I’d embarrassed myself Saturday night at a blackjack table. I’d been looking for another guest, saw him at a table, and sat down beside him. I thought I’d get in and play some hands, and pulled some money from my wallet. No sooner had I tossed $60 on the table than I noticed that the table was $25/hand. I hit blackjack on my first hand and said, “Oh, crap! I forgot! I gotta tell my girlfriend something! I’ll be back in a minute!” as I gathered up my chips and left.)

Anyway, I won the second game of the day, which was a night game out east. That left Phoenix/Sacramento, with the Kings getting 1.5 points. Since the Kings were in a dogfight with LA to get home-court advantage, this was my lock. I was sure that they’d win handily, even though they could’ve lost by a point and I still would’ve come up 5-for-5.

Final score? Phoenix 99, Kings 97. I was agog. It was then that I realized that the bookmakers really do know what they’re doing. I went back to my day job and resolved never to get into sports betting.

At least, not online. When in Vegas, etc. (although I likely wouldn’t bet on NBA game nowadays for the life of me; I have no ability to guess the outcome of virtually any game, and nowhere near the certainty it’d take me to go against the house)
That gets us to this week’s NFL Playoffs post-mortem, which helps prove I know nothing about football. For the second straight week, I went 1-3, dropping me to 2-6, while my rival, Ron Rosenbaum, now surpasses mediocrity at 5-3 after a 3-1 weekend.

Funnily enough, I’d have been content to go 0-4 this weekend, if it meant that the Patriots lost (by 6 or more) in San Diego. Instead, the only team to cover for me was the wildly irritating Patriots.

See, I was perfectly happy with Baltimore losing to Indy. I didn’t think the Ravens had the firepower to hold up against a San Diego, but I didn’t think they’d stink up the joint to the tune of 6 points against Indy. But I’m happy that Peyton and the Colts (who are starting to resemble the World Series winning Cardinals, whom nobody expected much from) will get to the AFC Championship game. I’m hoping they’ll knock off New England, but I refuse to bet against Belichick, so I’m stuck.

I thought the Saints would win by more, but I was glad that the Eagles made it an exciting game, even if Amy & I were out at my super-fantastic birthday dinner Saturday night.

I was also worried that the Bears would make too many mistakes to blow out the Seahawks, but I let Seattle’s stumblebumness cloud my judgment. Rex Grossman looks like the most confused quarterback in the NFL, with literally no ability to grasp when the pocket is collapsing. Have fun under Hollis Thomas next weekend, Rex.

But it’s the Chargers who just killed me. I was pulling for them all game to prove me wrong (or win by a figgie, so I covered), but they did just enough things wrong to let the Pats do what they do best: win.

So I have no hope in this NFL Playoff challenge, unless I go against Ron on the remaining three games and pull off all three. At which point we’ll tie and I’ll try to get him to fall for some NBA bets. . .

2006-2007 NFL Playoff Challenge, round 2

It’s do-or-die time, dear readers! I went 1-3 vs. the spread last week, while rival Ron Rosenbaum went 2-2. There’s no denying it: Ron reached mediocrity before I did!

I need to catch up in a hurry, since there are only 3 more games after this weekend, so this week’s picks will take some daring. It’d be easy to go with the home favorite in all 4 games, but that’s just the sort of strategy Mr. “What do our interpretations of Long Island say about our views on Hitler?” would engage in. Or maybe not.

Without further ado:

RAVENS by 4 over Colts. The Colts were bad last week, but were out-terrible-d by Kansas City. The Ravens evidently have restored that monstrous defense they had when they won the Superbowl in 2000. Still, this is one of those X-factor instances, where everything in my head says that the Ravens are going to cripple the Colts, but my animosity toward Brian Billick makes it tough for me to clearly pick the game. It’s like that passage in The Western Canon where Harold Bloom concedes that he may be letting personal judgment get in the way:

Robert Lowell and Philip Larkin are here [on this list of modern canonical writers] because I seem to be the only critic alive who regards them as over-esteemed, and so I am probably wrong and must assume that I am blinded by extra-aesthetic considerations, which I abhor and try to avoid.

In that spirit, I’m going with the Ravens to wipe out the Colts and start the “re-evaluating Peyton Manning” vibe that leads to off-the-record comments about how his enormous contract is restricting the Colts from bringing in difference-makers. So it’s Ravens minus 4 points.

SAINTS by 5 over Eagles. My wife is a lifetime Saints “fan,” so she’s expecting the bottom to fall out on this miracle run. It was bad when the Saints played well and won their first few games, because she knew her family would start talking playoffs four weeks into the season. Since then, they earned a bye-week, which will help Reggie Bush and Marques Colston recover from nagging injuries. Plus, they get Hollis Thomas back, although his 4-week suspension may have affected his conditioning (ha-ha). Anyway, Amy’s still expecting Carney to honk a big field goal attempt, but I’m enough of an optimist to believe that the Saints will ride this miracle season for another week at least. Especially since the New Orleans factor (lots of alcohol and shellfish) could take its toll on the already depleted Eagles. Take the Saints minus 5 over Philly.

Bears by 8.5 over Seahawks. It’s either a testament to how shaky the Bears QB is or a testament to how little I’ve followed either team, but I actually dithered over this pick for 15 seconds. Sure, Rex Grossman is a terrible QB, but Seattle’s defense is godawful, and only one of the most embarrassing mistakes in the history of the NFL (combined with an amazing tackle) got the Seahawks into the second round. So I’m going to have to go with the Bears in a rout, although this could be a game where their defense and special teams scores more points than their offense. Take the Bears minus 8.5.

CHARGERS by 5 over Patriots. I’m not even going to discuss this game, except to say that I’ve finally learned my lesson: Don’t bet against Bill Belichick in the playoffs. Take the Patriots plus 5 points.

In this week’s picks, Ron tries to guess what Philip Roth would bet on. In response, next week I’ll try to get NFL conference championship picks from Thane Rosenbaum.