Saturday, December 28, 2019

Nurse the Hate: A Christmas Story and NFL Winners

I am not positive when I made the transition in life from “enjoying the holidays” to “enduring the holidays”.  What was once a highly anticipated season of unbridled joy somehow morphed into a slow trudge of anxiety and fatigued consumption of sugar/alcohol.  As Christmas is “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”, here I write this on “The Day After The Day After The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year” wondering when I can avoid anonymous plates of cookies left randomly around most public spaces.  At a certain point my body will completely fail me, my quivering flesh secreting a liquefied sludge of Guinness Stout and M&Ms through my pores.  Let’s just end it already.

Christmas is traditionally best thought of in the fuzzy soft light of romanticized memories.  I was speaking with my Aunt Sandy recently where she filled in some detail on a Ghost of Christmas Past memory when she was three.  My grandparents would have an open house, the event of the season by some accounts.   In their swanky upscale Chicago suburb, they would openly compete with the Joneses to best whatever the last holiday gala had been within the social circle.   This was the late 1940s, a time of highballs, cigarettes, and slave wage domestic labor.  My grandfather, an insurance company founder, would have been at his most brash martini fueled best, a bull-in-a-china-shop with a quart of Beefeater gin helping his decision making.

The open house was such a priority that my grandmother called in reinforcements, her parents live-in housekeeper, to help prepare and serve food/drink to the revelers.  This poor woman, a criminally underpaid black woman from Alabama, had 9 children of her own that she had to leave on Christmas Day to smile through her gritted teeth as she served her employer’s children’s spoiled friends and their rotten kids.  The scene has been described by various witnesses as an odd blend of “Animal House”, “The Color Purple”, “Mad Men” and “Romper Room”.  Adults downed high-test cocktails while children pounded their feet through the house chasing each other as silver plates of hot finger foods emerged like magic from the kitchen as the woman grinded through the early afternoon.

Towards the end of the afternoon, tragedy struck.  The housekeeper keeled over from an apparent heart attack, dead on the kitchen floor.  My mother was tasked with keeping my Aunt, then three years old, out of the chaos and panic in the kitchen.  She was seven after all, a ripe old age to run that kind of interference.  But this was the Christmas Open House for God’s sake.  It was “all hands on deck”.  The situation was dire.  Who would serve the rest of the food?  How could they get the body out of the back while not alerting anyone of the revelers in the front rooms?  There were priorities.  This is when I like to imagine my grandfather “Bud” taking charge, filled to the gills with gin, and commanding his male inner circle to wrestle the corpse out back while someone made a distraction in front.  As I first heard it, the body was carried out by three lit up guys through the back yard to an emergency vehicle parked nearby so as to not alert the guests and risk losing the Christmas cheer.  At some point someone finally called the woman’s family to alert them of her death in what was likely an awkward and sobering phone call.  “Hello…  Yes, is this James?  Mona’s son?  Yes… Well…  Ah…”

The party was saved.  There were whispered rumors of course, but in the end the men had another drink or eight and re-told the adventure as word began to spread.  My mother saved her sister from the image of the lifeless housekeeper being carried by well dressed men out the back door.  Kids being kids, they soon moved on to raiding the cookies and running around the house.  The doorbell rang and other well-heeled families churned through, unaware of the drama from earlier.  The memory of the party blended into the others from the era, a fuzzy Christmas memory that should have been horrible but instead had the edges sanded down by time to become just absurd. 

As those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, I have made it as policy to not have a housekeeper, much less one that can potentially drop dead in my kitchen.  Sure, I can't afford one now anyway, but I probably will after this Sunday where these two monster winners have practically guaranteed me unlimited wealth.  It feels good to know that not having a dead housekeeper I callously remove from my kitchen on Christmas Day is a choice, not a result of circumstance.  With that in mind, let's discuss the NFL.

I firmly believe in wagering against expectation.  This is almost always a guaranteed win.  While they zig, I zag.  There is no larger fallacy in betting the NFL than betting on the team that "must" win.  This week for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers must win for a chance at getting in the Playoffs.  They are playing the Ravens, a team expected to rest "everybody".  The thought is the Ravens won't care, and just want to finish the season healthy, thus will expend minimal effort.  The Steelers MUST win, therefore they will win.  The betting line has gone from Baltimore favored by three at home to them now getting three as money has poured in on the Steelers, a team destined to win because they "must".

Allow me this counter narrative.  The Ravens will not play their QB and likely MVP Lamar Jackson.  RG3 will get the start.  Griffin, a mobile QB himself, is perfectly suited to stepping in and playing adequately.  Most times "adequate" would not be nearly enough to win an NFL game.  However, Pittsburgh literally cannot score on offense.  Their QB, the third string Duck Hodges, has done the following in his last 8 possessions:  Five interceptions and three 3-and-outs.  The Ravens, possessing a very good defense, are not resting "everyone", but just some key players.  Let's say that they rest enough players to go from "very good" to "average" on defense.  Pittsburgh doesn't score on anyone.  They likely won't score on Baltimore either.  Pittsburgh has an excellent defense.  They will not make it easy for Baltimore to score, especially with their backup QB.  I am taking Baltimore +3 and UNDER 37 in a parlay hoping the Steeler defense doesn't score on a pick 6.

The Cowboys MUST WIN over the universally recognized "horrible" Washington Redskins.  Two quick points.  1.  Washington under Callahan has actually been a decent team down the stretch.  They run the ball well, play ball control, and limit mistakes.  They beat the Lions, beat the Panthers, lost by five at Green Bay, lost a close one at Philadelphia, and lost in OT last week to the Giants.  They hang in there.  2.  Dallas essentially lost the division last week in Philadelphia.  What was most noteworthy was how bad Prescott looked, missing open receivers time and time again.  He is clearly injured, probably his throwing shoulder.  The Public knows the Cowboys need this game to have a chance at the Playoffs.  They also need to Eagles to lose to the Giants.  So you're telling me that a bad looking Cowboy team, with their hopes dashed last week and an injured QB, are going to beat an average Redskin team by two touchdowns?  I'll take Washington+14 and hope the Eagles surge out to an early lead in New York.

Season Record:  26-14-2  


At December 31, 2019 at 2:58:00 PM EST , Blogger Mike Scott said...

Hell of a year, mister. Didn't even have to resort to too many teasers.

At January 4, 2020 at 9:09:00 AM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

It only means I will get destroyed in the Playoffs.


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