Saturday, December 15, 2018

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 15

I met a woman who is a “life coach” this week.  I’m not sure what credentials one needs to proclaim themselves worthy of being a life coach.  Maybe it’s just having a general vibe of having your shit together.  My gut is that most of her friends most come to her for advice on things like yoga classes, interior decorators, and recommended cosmetic dentists.  Eventually the dots were connected for her to do it full time.  She recommended I attend her upcoming “workshop” on dealing with stress.  This seemed like a terrible idea.  I told her that I had my own methods, which of course she then wanted to know specifics.  When I told her “working out and drinking lots of wine”, she looked at me with a combination of pity and scorn.  I forgot to throw in “Sports Gambling”, which I do not think would have helped my cause.  However, I’ll bet there is a roomful of wealthy women right now “sharing in a non judgmental way” that could have saved themselves an $800 workshop fee if they just bought a nice bottle of Pol Roger and dropped some jack on the games this weekend.  There are some real opportunities this week too.

The Titans are perhaps the most boring team in the NFL.  Every time I watch a Titans game I see Mariota throw an incomplete pass of about 3 yards.  Sometimes a running back goes into the line for two yards.  The uniforms are ugly.  The players aren’t memorable.  The defense is pretty good though.  Like I said, I can’t recall any of the players by name, but they keep the games low scoring. The Public seems to think the Giants are good after they beat the Bears with Chase Daniel at QB and turnover plagued Tampa.  This is a mirage.  They aren’t dropping 35 on the Titans, especially with no Odell at WR.  I’ll take the boring Titans to grind out a win here.  Tennessee -1.5

Another team it’s always wise to bet against is the Detroit Lions.  The Lions won on the road versus Arizona last week despite scoring no offensive touchdowns.  Stafford has an injured back, and all the skill players are second teamers.  This motley collection of players is going to fly across the country to go play outside in Buffalo, who has strangely morphed into an average football team after ending “The Peterman Experiment”.  I am fading the Lions on the road, which is always a smart thing to do.  No one has ever lost money betting against the Lions on the road.  Look it up.  Buffalo -2.5

I plan on watching a great deal of football on Sunday.  As the Browns won’t be on, I will have to make it interesting by having action on as much of the league as possible.  How about a five team parlay?  Everyone loves a sucker bet, and no one more than me!  Buffalo over the Lions because the Lions are the Lions.  The Arizona Cardinals cannot score.  This is a hindrance in winning NFL Football games; so let’s take Atlanta at home.  The Jacksonville Jaguars hated Blake Bortals so much, they are playing inspired football with Cody Kessler, who really sucks.  The good news is that they are hosting the Washington Redskins, who mercifully ended The Mark Sanchez Comeback, and have now turned to Josh Johnson.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Redskins have given up on the season and just want to go home.  Jacksonville.  Speaking of giving up, how can the Eagles hope to go on the road to beat the Rams?  They had their playoff dreams killed in Dallas last week, now have to fly out to LA to play a Ram team that wants to get back on the rails after an embarrassing loss to the Bears.  Rams.  Finally, I am on the Houston Texans over the Jets.  Jets coach Todd Bowles is a Dead Man Walking.  The Texans want to close out the AFC South.  These are teams heading in two very different directions.  I bet the Jets hang in there, but the Texans win.  All I need are those five games to come in and I get paid out 3-1.  With that kind of money, I’m buying something extravagant. You know, like a pony.

Current Record:  14-9   

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The CT Scan and NFL Picks

The CT scan hummed and whirred.  I felt remarkably detached from the entire enterprise.  My eyes were closed.  My hands folded across my chest.  I felt like I could doze off until I noticed how relaxed I was, which made me lift out of the beginning stages of sleep.  The mysterious cylindrical machine was looking into my neck to see if a troublesome gland was “a mass” as per the work order.  I have slowly entered an age where small ailments might be the whispers of serious disease and death.  Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks died yesterday.  My record collection and concert memories have begun to die, not from spectacular beautiful tragedies but from common maladies.  The Buzzcocks are no longer angular young men, so do not enjoy the privilege of being forever young and beautiful like Jim Morrison.  The machine hummed and I dropped “Waiting For The Pulsebeat” into my mind.

The doctor had been taken aback when she noted the seriousness of a positive test result and I responded with “Well, at least everything will just be over.  That’s not all bad.”  We stared at each other for a full beat.  She asked if I often felt that way.  “Sure.  If most men my age are honest with you, they’ll say the same thing.  How much longer can this go on?”  She scribbled something down in My Chart.  Black humor didn’t seem to fit comfortably in this circumstance.  I would now either be "monitored" or perhaps injected full of passifying drugs.  That didn't go well.  She left me in the room alone while seeing if she could schedule me immediately in the CT scan.  “They can fit you in now.  Can you do it now?”  Sure.  Why not?   I went downstairs and waited for the young woman in scrubs to take me to The Show.

The machine hummed.  It was peaceful with the repetition of the machine like the sound of a man made creek gurgling along.  When the CT scan was over the table slowly lowered so I could hop off.  The woman stared at me as it descended a grand total of 4 inches as if I couldn’t have negotiated the height.  She asked if I had any questions.  “Yeah.  Do you think the Broncos are going to cover this weekend?”  What?  “The Broncos…  Do you think they cover five and a half?”.  Umm…  I don’t know.  “OK.  See ya.”  And then I walked out to my car still wondering why I didn’t seem to care about the test results one way or the other.  I was focused instead on this Broncos versus 49er game. 

Here’s a few things I can tell you.  The San Francisco 49ers are 2-10 but have somehow outgained their opponents by 174 yards.  They have been killed on turnovers.  Now, I’m not suggesting this is a great football team, but I am suggesting that turnover differential is the absolute key to winning in the NFL.  The 49ers are -20.  The Broncos have won their last 3 and went +8 in turnovers.  They went +4 against Pittsburgh while being outgained by almost 300 yards and won.  The thought is that turnovers eventually equal out, especially with a couple QBs handling the ball of roughly similar skill sets like this game.  Therefore The Public believes the 49ers are worse than they really are as a team, while also simultaneously thinking the Broncos are much better.  With that dual misperception, there is value in the line.  Well, at least that is what I have convinced myself.  San Francisco +4

What I enjoy about NFL gambling is not betting on football.  I like to bet against Public Perception.  The advertising business will teach you, if you want to learn, that most people are insanely stupid.  There are people right now signing on for two year deals on mobile phone service because an inflatable with waving arms caught their attention while driving down the street.  These same people are going to wildly overreact to the Colts being shut out last week.  The thought is that whatever just happened is a complete indication of what will happen in the future.  The Colts have had six games in a row where they have looked like a borderline playoff team Last week they got shut out by the Jags.  The Public believes that the one game against the Jags is much more representative of the Colts than the previous six.  Meanwhile, the Texans have entered a period of being a popular discussed "sleeper pick" for the Super Bowl.  This is crazy talk.  However, it continues the narrative of the Texans, despite winning all of their "coin flip" type games, may never lose again.  I know this.  Teams that were shutout the previous week cover 58% of the time the next week.  I am fading The Public and taking the Colts +4.

The Oakland Raiders are terrible.  I suffered through watching their second half last week as they did all the typical Raider things of giving up big plays, shooting themselves in the foot with personal foul penalties, and fail to take advantage of opportunities.  They are not very good.  For some reason though, they always play the Steelers tough, especially at home.  The Public will think The Steelers will "need" this game and will want "revenge" after giving one away at home last week to San Diego.  I see this as them flying across the country on a short week to play a team they don't match up with very well.  The Steelers have not been running the ball the last three weeks.  They are well below 100 yards rushing in the past three games, and now Connor is out with an ankle.  That means Ridley is in, and a big downgrade.  Big Ben is going to throw the ball a ton, which means Big Ben will toss some picks.  Why grown men call him Big Ben, I don't know.  Roethlesberger is just brutal to say I suppose.  Anyway, in the Tomlin Era the Steelers are 7-18 ATS when favored by 6.5 points or more.  They also have only won a startling 64% of those games straight up.  I don't feel great about it, but I am taking the Raiders +10.5.

 I left the hospital and got in my car.  I put the Buzzcocks "Love Bites" on.  The chainsaw guitars and nasal vocals of Pete Shelley still sounded perfect.  I stopped at a Starbucks to get jacked up on espresso.  A guy in front of me bought my coffee without warning.  I asked him if he was doing that as some sort of festive holiday spirit thing.  The undertone of that also being that I wasn't going to be blowing him in his car for the coffee.  Let's be clear.  I'll take the gesture but I wasn't going to backflip on sexual preferance for a $1.85.  He told me that his company instructs them to do random acts of kindness like that, a corporate mandated community service which is of course tracked via spending records on an American Express.  You have to love forced acts of good, but I regret I wasn't standing next to the guy at a Porsche dealership. That would have more firmly said something about that company's commitment to givingI thanked him and went on my way.  My phone buzzed with a message.  My test results had already posted to my electronic chart.  I didn't have cancer.  That's nice.  I started the car and listened to "Fiction Romance" as I commuted downtown. 

Season Record:  11-9      


Monday, December 3, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Threatin, My New Favorite Band

I would recommend dropping everything you are doing and reading what might be the most fascinating news story of 2018.  I will wait here for you while you do so we can talk about it…

I love this story so much I can’t even begin to tell you.  I am going to assume that this is not a high-minded performance art idea, like a metal version of an Andy Kaufman street piece.  The one thing that metal bands do not do is parody or irony.  It is impossible to have any sense of self awareness and sing songs about wizards, demons and violence when you are an adult living in a two-bedroom apartment in the suburbs.  And don’t try to suggest that The Darkness is a real metal band, because real metal bands don’t smirk.  There is no room for humor or clever conceptual social commentary in this type of metal.  This tour was “a plan”.  Someone thought this out and said “Yes, this is a good idea.”    

First off, I like the idea of buying Facebook followers.  Companies do it all the time to fool search engines to increase their profile.  Applying this to a band is a very popular thing to do, especially with subgenres that don’t rely on live performances like rap and pop.  I can see how this might help gain initial attention from talent buyers.  The thought being that the club booking agent would get a request for a show from a band in a sub-genre with which he/she is unfamiliar.  Not being versed in the metal world of “Threatin”, maybe the booking agent would think “well, they have 30,000 Facebook followers, so they can fill a 500 person room.”.  Of course, the problem is that all of these rooms are part of a circuit where everyone knows who is coming up to their sized venue and who is dropping back down.  Hence, any savvy booking agent would think “these guys have never been on a bill in any room with anyone I have ever heard of and no one else in the circuit is even vaguely aware of them.  Raise the red flag.”

This is the reason “Threatin” then went to the extraordinary expense of booking the rooms as rentals, a very unusual situation.  When we play tours, we have a booking agent that either uses a local promotor or goes to the club directly to work out a deal of shared risk with the show.  The club is aware of who we are and weighs out how many people can be reasonably expected to come to the club.  It should be noted, we play small rooms for the most part, yet the clubs have a basic awareness of the band.  For a band to book a 500 person room but have NO street awareness is crazy.  For example, the Parquet Courts played the 400 capacity Beachland last night and they have been on national TV shows like the Tonight Show and Conan.  The clubs had to have at least an inkling when there was ZERO buzz about the “Threatin” booking.

Still, the most curious part is the booking from the band itself.  I am of the opinion that the singer of the band figured that if he booked these clubs that there would somehow be a small yet respectable group of attendees that would wander in.  It was a metal version of “build it and they will come”.  Unfortunately, and I can tell you this from hard won experience, even when people know who you are and even like the band, they still might not come out.  To spend thousands of dollars for renting each room, the cost of airline tickets, equipment rental, transportation, etc…  It is the absolute height of either insanity or stupidity.  And I am dying to know which…

I would have given anything to have been in the dressing room with the band on that first gig.  At this point the guy from “Threatin” that made all this happen had to know a miracle was not going to happen.  Why they had told the club that they had 297 presales is mystifying.  Did he think that 297 people would magically show up, or did he think that he could somehow explain it all away?  He had to know that at a certain point, the illusion would disappear and he would have some explaining to do.

Yet, there is NO WAY you can explain 297 people that allegedly bought tickets that did not show up.  The guy from Threatin had to know that eventually he would have to face the music (as it were) when the club owners were wondering why they fully staffed a club for no reason.  Doing it once would be unbelievably uncomfortable.  To willingly create a situation where you would have to do it night after night after night is fucking amazing.  I cannot put myself in that head space to purposely do that to yourself.  I have been that guy with the terrible show (and probably will again), and it really sucks.
The conversation with the band must have been something to behold.  There is a point in the night after doors are open and the realization that the show is a bust that settles in like a heavy cloud.  The drummer and bass player, hired by the Threatin guy, must have taken the gigs on face value alone.  They must have known that the band was invisible in the United States, but fell for a “we’re huge in Belgium” line of bullshit.  They must have known very early on when doors opened and NO ONE came in that something was terribly wrong.  When showtime is 15 minutes away, you’ve been told that 297 tickets were sold via pre-sale and NO ONE is in the room, what do you talk about?  “Dude…  This is super fucked up…  Have you seen Jered?”.  There is no place on earth more lonely than an empty 500 capacity club with a loud band playing.  It makes Depression soup line photos look cheerful by comparison.  The fact that Jared Threatin also maintained what he thought a “professional touring outfit” would do by threatening fines when the band went out to eat breakfast on their own might be my favorite small detail. 

I went to the band website to look at the posted videos of the “interviews” that allegedly Jared made of interviewing himself, but sadly those were down.  I am not sure if I could have gotten through them as I would have felt so embarrassed just looking at them that it would have been a real test.  I also tried to do the loop of the fictional record company to the fictional management company back to the band, but that loop has also been taken down.  It’s actually a tremendous amount of work the guy put in to create this fiction.  In fact, it would have been easier just to book a small tour in little rooms where they could have played on multi band bills to actually try to create a real audience.  Ah well, that would have been much more boring than this. 

Threatin is my favorite band since VSquared.  I hope they do a double bill together...

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Sad Tale of John Chau (and NFL picks)

I have been fascinated by the story of John Chau.  John was a 26 year old missionary with a zeal for adventure.  He somehow became fixated on the idea of being the first person to bring Jesus to the Sentinel Island 700 miles off the coast of India.  The Sentinese were not excited about the idea of John or anyone else visiting their island.  Living in complete isolation, they have a language unintelligible to the rest of the planet and have no contact with the outside world.  They hunt turtles and fish with spears and arrows.  They chase off anyone that attempts to land on their island, and recently killed two shipwrecked fisherman that wound up on their beach.  It’s still 1478 on Sentinel Island.

Their lack of interest in visitors is not unfounded as in the 1890s, the always reliably cruel British Empire kidnapped several islanders who quickly died when exposed to diseases and microbes that don’t exist on their island.  They now just scare off anyone that tries to come to their island and will eventually attack.  The government of India has placed a ban on traveling to the island as a way to preserve their culture and health of the people.  John, knowing these facts, took this on as a challenge.  John believed that God had placed him on earth to share the Christian faith with these islanders and bring them to the glory of One True God. 

John went to a bunch of fundamentalist Christian schools in the US and became a missionary.  He loved the idea of combining travel and missionary work.  Unfortunately, he also combined the fundamentalist Christian idea of being invulnerable as he was doing “the Lord’s work” with the naivety of being a 26 year old American without a complete understanding of what he was doing.  That’s why John is dead and his body is still on the beach on Sentinel Island.

John had convinced some fisherman to take him out there.  The fisherman wouldn’t land on the island, so John paddled in via a blowup kayak.  The first time he tried to land, the islanders shouted and threatened him by shooting arrows in his direction.  John got scared off and went back.  The second time, he went ashore.  “My name is John and I love you and Jesus loves you.”  When he did that, one of the islanders shot an arrow through the Bible John was holding.  John paddled back.  The next day, he went back ashore and told the fishermen to leave him on the island.  The fishermen came past the next day and saw a group of islanders pulling John’s body on the beach with a rope.  John, knowing the danger before his latest attempt, wrote a note to his family saying “Remember, the first one to heaven wins.”.  You win John.  You win.

If I lived in Texas, I would say something like “Boy, you must be shit stupid.”.  The fact I don’t live in Texas prevents me from saying that, and it does fill me with regret.  Probably not as much regret as John had when he realized he was going to die pointlessly from an arrow or spear, but it’s all a matter of scale.  Even now, people in his missionary group have no regrets of their own.  “He had a higher calling he was following.”  The one dimensional viewpoint of the Christian Right is fascinating. 

Imagine if you will, a van with three guys in loincloths pulls up in your front yard.  One of the guys starts to walk in your yard towards you holding an unidentifiable object.  He then says something in a language you can’t understand.  “Gunga Ga Gunga!”  Then he starts walking towards you again.  Your entire life has been spent hearing legendary tales of outsiders kidnapping your forefathers, never to be seen again.  Meanwhile, one of these outsiders is here, IN YOUR FRONT YARD, walking towards you while you are holding a weapon.  What other scenario would happen except you shooting that guy and then pulling that dude around your front yard on a rope with your John Deere mower making noises like “Woooo!!!!” like you just won the Super Bowl?  Shit kid.  Wake up.  How else could that have gone down?

Only a Christian Fundamentalist would be so blind to the idea that perhaps not everyone needs to get wise to his particular idea of religion.  Perhaps the islanders have a religion so perfect, so complete that it would have rendered that waterproof Bible of his as just a book of stories written and re-translated by people with particular agendas.  Maybe some people can just be left alone, especially if they are shooting arrows at you telling you to get off their fucking beach.  Maybe no one there needs the answers to questions they either aren't asking or have already figured out.  So stupid.   

So now I’m trying to convince myself that betting on the Arizona Cardinals this week isn’t as stupid as the John Chau saga.  I’ll bet that even the residents of Sentinel Island are saying “Munga dinga soomba” about me taking the Cardinals, which loosely translates to “That guy is shit stupid”.  Before someone comes over here and shoots me with an arrow, hear me out…

It is true that Cardinal QB Josh Rosen is 21 years old, grew up in California, went to UCLA and is now going to Lambeau to play in December.  I have no idea if he has ever even seen snow.  Yes, he has only thrown for 250 yards in the last two games combined.  The Cards are last in the NFL in offense, passing yards, rushing yards, and points.  They really suck.  Furthermore, underdogs of more than seven points this season are 1-28 straight up.  That doesn’t look good.  However  In the last 30 years, a team with a winning percentage of .400 or under has NEVER covered a double digit spread.  This stat comes from a sample of the last 30 years in only the back half of the year, so it wasn’t skewed by some 0-2 good team that killed somebody in Week 3.  To take the 4-6-1 Green Bay Packers giving fourteen, we have to buy into the idea that something HISTORICAL is about to happen.  I am not betting against a trend like that.  My trembling hand is putting money down on Arizona +14.

No one has been more surprised by the Browns recent success than I have been.  Well, I knew they would beat the Bengals last week as the Bengals have brought The Cooler in (aka Hue Jackson).  Hue Jackson is the worst football coach in the NFL.  This isn’t hyperbole.  This is a fact backed by history.  That another organization brought Hue Jackson in has blown my mind way more than that time I accidentally took LSD in college and saw a spoon inchworm around a kitchen table.  Let me put it this way, if I was in a serious accident and a doctor version of Hue Jackson rolled up I would stop him from working on me.  As my right hand held my intestines in with blood seeping on the ground, I would reach up with a trembling left hand to pull Hue in closer to tell him, “Don’t do anything.  I am going to take my chances and wait to see if another doctor wanders by…” 

This week the Browns face a real defense after looking like a legit team after playing Atlanta and Cincinnati.  The Texans at home is going to be no joke.  Things are going to get real for the Browns.  This is a bad spot for the Browns as I have no idea how they deal with either the Texans rushing game or the Texans two defensive ends.  I am going to parlay Houston with the Broncos (who travel to Cincinnati).  Cincinnati has the longest injury report I have ever seen.  I assume the Bengals will never win again until they rid themselves of The Cooler.  Houston/Denver parlay.

Season Record:  9-9