Hoop Dreams

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The leader board after two rounds of the “Beat The Spread” challenge on VSIN. I’m the guy who’s #8, actually tied in sixth.
I hate to keep talking basketball so much lately, but recently I’ve had a good bit of luck come my way.

As of late, I’ve been listening or watching VSIN off of either Facebook Live or YouTube, and heard that the network had a contest where you pick games in the NCAA basketball tournament against a point spread.

I wasn’t really paying attention to it, honestly. It wasn’t something I was keeping all the picks on a sheet of paper and eyeballing my progress every 10 minutes. But when I picked South Carolina and the points against Duke in the round of 32, and then seeing Duke lose outright to the Gamecocks, it began to dwell on me that I might be doing well.

Now I’m in a three-way tie for 6th out of over 1,100 pickers. If I win, it’s a trip to the South Point in Vegas, plus $1,000. I’d like to win, sure. But right now, I’m just enjoying the view.

After the “Sweet 16” round, I thought I had stunk up the joint, but I surprised myself again. I went 5-2-1 with my picks against the spread (I thought I had changed a couple of them around when I hadn’t), good for 5.5 more points to get me to 36.5 as a total. At that point, I was at 36.5 points, tied for second.

Over the weekend, I decided to take a gamble. I picked all the underdogs on all four games, taking South Carolina, Xavier, Oregon, and Kentucky. I wasn’t thinking all four would win, but that each team was capable of keeping the game close and within the point spread.

With Kentucky losing by two points as three point underdogs, I hit three out of four picks. I’m still tied for second, but if I had picked Gonzaga, I’d be ahead. 

A Piece Of The Action

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Over the past week, I was paying attention with great interest to the new VSIN network and their chronicling of the $352,000 wagered by Derek Stevens, owner of the D Hotel and Casino, of 32 first-round games in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Stevens bet on  the four “first four” play-in games, then the 28 first round games not involving those teams who played in the play-in round. He went 10-19-3 (10 wins, 19 losses, and three games landing right on the point spread for “pushes” which count as neither a win or a loss), losing $109,000 in total.

Stevens, according to Brent Musburger on his Sunday show “My Guys In The Desert”, also has a bet on Michigan to win the NCAA tournament at 80-1. Derek wagered $12,500, so if he’s correct, he wins a cool $1,000,000.

I’ve always heard that the most successful sports handicappers play very few games, not a whole bunch of them. The “wisdom” in that is the fewer games you wager on, the less errors one can make. Then again, Las Vegas hasn’t had all that money pour in because there’s a lot of “sharps” out there looking for openings in the sports lines.

Can’t help but hope the Wolverines win the whole shebang, though.

Ones And Sixteens

Even at age 45, statistics still fascinate me. Maybe not as much as they used to, but stats can be a powerful tool in sports, in politics, or in the news in general.

Up until the Super Bowl this year, I thought the most amazing statistic in sports was the anomaly that up until that classic Pats/Falcons Super Bowl, no Super Bowl had gone to overtime, winding up tied after 60 minutes of regulation play. Roughly, at least 1 NFL game in the regular season and beyond out of 20 such games needs overtime to decide, but after 50 Super Bowls, it had never happened in the big game.

Now that it finally happened this year (and I “marked out” big time when it did, dancing around the TV and saying to myself, “It happened! It finally happened!!!”), there is an heir apparent to the biggest anomalous stat in the sports world.

Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament went to 64 teams in 1985, the teams are seeded in four regions: based on a combination of record and roughly the strength of schedule a given team plays. The best seed is to be a number 1 seed, while being a number 16 seed is the least desirable.

Counting the first round games this year, the 1 seed has played the 16 seed 132 times. The 16 seed teams have NEVER won, 0-132 against the 1 seed. In women’s college basketball, it’s only ever happened once, in 1998 when Harvard stunned the top seeded Stanford squad.

It will happen someday, but not until at least March of 2018.

Keeping Kayfabe With Kareem

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Pro wrestler Kareem Muhammad in the camo tights, with Kevin Sullivan behind him.
In the lexicon of professional wrestling, kayfabe is the lost art of keeping the performance as authentic as humanly possible in all aspects of the business. It is not done as much now as it was decades ago, because travel, cable TV, and the Internet changed those aspects of the business. But, back in that era, when wrestlers traveled within regional circuits from city to city, “good guys” and “bad guys” would not usually travel together. If they did that, the public would figure out quicker that the business was staged, or “a work” as the industry calls it.

Back when I was 15 (not quite yet 16) in 1987, my first encounter with a pro wrestler was with a bad guy, better known in their terminology as a heel. That doesn’t mean of course that the performer is a bad guy in real life, but merely the role he plays to help his company draw, or in other words, make money for them and in turn, for himself.

I was roaming around the old Sunshine Mall in Clearwater at the JCPenneys. Most of the sets are tuned into Channel 10 on a Saturday afternoon, airing UWF wrestling, which was the old circuit that emanated from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas by that time. It was the first time I had seen the UWF on local TV, but I was a reader of the Bill Apter wrestling magazines, which is why I went to the mall to begin with, to stock up on magazines to read at the old Super X drugstore. In the era before the Internet, the mags kept a fan up to date what happened in the territories you didn’t see on local or cable TV. If you wanted to know what was going on in the WWF, you didn’t need the mags, because it was on TV everywhere via cable at the very least. If you wanted to know what was happening in the Northwest circuit based out of Portland, you’d need mags for that.

Watching the TV, I didn’t dawn on me immediately who was right next to me: a large African-American man dressed in a camo shirt and pants, chatting with a larger than average woman of color. Recognition dawned, but the name briefly escaped me. Pouring through the magazines covertly, I figure out who it is: it’s Kareem Muhammad, who got his start as Ray Candy before changing his moniker and becoming part of the tag team known as the Zambuie Express with Elijah Akeem, who used to be Bad Bad Leroy Brown. He’s working in the CWF circuit in Florida, which would wind up folding later in the year when Jim Crockett Promotions (the Mid-Atlantic circuit based in Charlotte, but by then rapidly expanding nationally to keep pace with the already expanded WWF) bought out the circuit, but then expanded too quickly. Ted Turner would buy the Crocketts out in late 1988.

(In the business, it’s not unusual for guys not well known to change names, gimmicks, homes, and go from being a good guy to a bad guy every so often. Remember, it’s all about the promotion finding the best matchups of good guys and bad guys that will get butts in the seats. Now a days, it’s not about getting fans to the local arenas, but getting ratings for the cable TV shows and the pay-per-view cards, the total opposite of the what it used to be.)

Figuring that out, we have a nice, respectful conversation. His tone is a bit gruff, probably because he’s got me figured for a mark (a fan who may or may not know the realities of the business). I wasn’t about to disrespect him, because while I’m a big kid, this dude TOWERED over me.  He’s easily got six inches of height on me, plus about 100 to 150 pounds.

I wasn’t about to razz him for being a bad guy, or to say wrestling is fake. I already KNEW wrestling was stage crafted, and it didn’t seem a good idea to confront someone MUCH bigger than me. Back then, if you questioned the credibility of pro wrestling, it was not uncommon for the one making the allegation, or anyone thinking they could take a pro wrestler, to get beat up or injured. (Hulk Hogan was one such wannabe at one time, who wound up with a broken leg when he first tried to break into the business.) I didn’t know that at the time, but I figured it’s best to keep a level head.

With that, I parted, with a story to tell my pals at Largo High School on Monday, though I don’t remember if I ever did tell it.

Don’t You Know What Road Rage Is?

So I had this idea nearly six years ago, and in light of the recent brawl between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, this idea of mine is still a damn good one.

Funny how Kyle Busch is almost always one of the participants in these altercations, isn’t it? You’d think by now he would have gotten counseling for his road rage, right?

Anyway, enjoy the old video. 

The Games Played With Games

As a sports fan almost all my life, I do find it meddlesome at times when the rules of sports get tweaked. 

Recently, MLB changed the rules concerning intentional walks. The runner is now just awarded first base with no pitches thrown. I’ve seen wild pitches thrown during intentional walks. Now that can’t happen. 

Ditto the NFL a couple of years ago making the extra point after a touchdown. Takes out the possibility of a team faking a kicked extra point and going for two points with a run or pass out of a kicked formation. 

NASCAR keeps changing their standings points system. This year, they are dividing races into segments and awarding points to who leads 30 percent and 60 percent through the races.

To me, this is a bit strange. Do they remember who had the lead a quarter of the way thru the Kentucky Derby, or the Boston marathon?  Probably not. 

The Lottery Ticket

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I hope Marcus Paschal, the football head coach at my alma mater of Largo High School in Largo, Florida, doesn’t mind me sharing this photo with you.

He is one of only three players from my school to play in the NFL on a full-time basis. (Leonard Johnson and Dexter McCluster being the other two.) The numbers are probably similar in other sports, whether they be baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, what have you.

Very few make it in the world of sports. As the photo illustrates, a million kids play high school ball across the country, but roughly 150 of those players will be around to see their 4th season in the NFL.

Just as you can’t plan on winning the lottery, athletes have to realize that as much as they dream of winning a Super Bowl, the odds are definitely not with them.