Josh_Nagel's Blog

Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 02:29 AM

Some contrarian thoughts on the double-digit bowl underdogs

I’m all for situational plays, whether it’s anticipating a letdown, distraction, or other related malady when it comes to bowl games.  

In fact, when it comes to handicapping college sports, I use the psychology in play more than the X’s and O’s, and it has worked for me.

But I’ve run into a problem this year. Ever since bowl spreads were announced, I’ve talked to a few handicappers who have tried to sell me on one or both of the biggest underdogs in the bowl season – Arizona State and Iowa.

To which I say, getting two touchdowns is great, but Arizona State and Iowa … really?

So after hearing these pro-underdog arguments for nearly two weeks now – and this coming from someone who prefers to take points as opposed to give them – I am now going to make a brief argument for the other side in both games.

Although neither game likely will be a big play for me, I just thought I would add some contrarian thinking to what appears to be grass-roots value in these double-digit dogs.

Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Arizona State (+14)
The Sun Devils have been one of the worst teams you possibly could consider backing all year, so why start now?

No one has done less with more talent over the past few years than Dennis Erickson, and the school waited at least a year too long to dump him. Now, there’s even controversy surrounding his replacement, Todd Graham, who evidently forgot to tell Pitt he was leaving after one y... [More]

Posted Wednesday, December 07, 2011 03:43 PM

Hand the Heisman to the Honey Badger

Tyrann Mathieu should win the Heisman Trophy. Just writing those words makes me cringe a little because, with all due respect to his talent, I could live without the Honey Badger.

I’m not a terribly big fan of people who give themselves nicknames and the inherent narcissism that accompanies such self-made monikers.

In fairness, I’m similarly not wild about Robert Griffin’s look-at-me infomercial after Baylor’s win last week over Texas, although it’s starting to look like a stroke of marketing genius.

Griffin told a national audience that he believed Baylor should have its first Heisman winner, and apparently ballot-holders who watched the interview were sold.

Why and how, I’m not sure. That Griffin literally became the overnight favorite for the Heisman is one of the oddest oddities in a season full of them.  

First, we have to get past our biases on what the Heisman should or shouldn’t be. Ostensibly, it’s supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football. How that is defined depends on who you talk to.

There have been some trends over the years, including the bothersome one of the Heisman essentially belonging to the pre-season media favorite unless he does something drastic to not warrant it.

Over the past few years, we’ve trended toward giving it to the best player on the best team. I’m not arguing that’s the correct approach or a perfect system, but at least we’ve started to be a little more consist... [More]

Posted Thursday, December 01, 2011 01:32 AM

Damn, that hurts!

There are some things you never quite get used to in life. The sting of a bad beat is one of them.

Sure, the manner in which you react to them improves. I used to lose sleep and lick my wounds for a couple of days, and maybe even second-guess myself before firing that next bet.
Those days are over, as a quicker recovery time is something that comes with experience, and the knowledge of knowing if you are around long enough, you’re going to do your share of suffering.

But there’s still nothing quite like that uppercut-to-the-gut sensation when the gambling gods seemingly giveth, then brutally taketh away.

I’ve long ago learned to take nothing for granted. I don’t start counting the cash before the final buzzer, nor do I toss my ticket in the paper shredder at halftime if my team is getting hammered.

Some of my friends are either more optimistic or just plain naïve. I have a few who will text me as they sweat a game on my behalf. I’ve got one buddy who will text me, “Nice call … cha-ching!” when my 7-point football favorite is up 10 with a minute left and the other team is driving.

The support is nice and all, but I’ll always reply with, “Thanks, but wait … not over yet,” or “I’m holding out to celebrate till the clock hits zero.”

So, despite my vast experience with near-miss heartache and a steely façade that fends off the damage, I still find myself wondering how Duke covered 6 against Kansas last week to kill my first big c... [More]

Posted Friday, November 25, 2011 01:30 AM

Hawaii hanger-ons and the Jekyll & Hide show

In Nevada sportsbooks, there’s a name for diehard gamblers who occupy lumpy chairs until the wee hours, sweating out that last college football game when most of us already have called it a day.

They are known as “Hawaii hanger-ons,” and their action has been known to have an impact on their own bankrolls as well as the book’s bottom line.

They aren’t a whole lot different than the types you see who, almost invariably, try to recoup a weekend’s losses by betting whatever they have left on the chalk in the Monday Night Football game.

Some Hawaii hanger-ons are the compulsive types who need to have a dollar on every game, but the club’s members use a revolving door. Most are temporary who see that last game, usually with 9 or 10 p.m. kickoff local time, as a potential means by which to avoid waiting until Sunday morning to get back some of what they lost during the Saturday slate.

Most people who bet college football seriously likely have visited the Hawaii hanger-on club a time or two, and I’m no exception. But I’ve long since kicked the habit.

Even so, the alleged point-shaving scandal that hit Hawaii this week brought to light a dynamic I’ve been witnessing for years. That is, the sportsbook needing Louisiana Tech or Idaho to cover 20-odd points in order to take the cash from the hanger-ons, who gladly sweat out games that inevitably seem to last about 6 hours, in hopes the Warriors can bring them some needed cash.

Also, as a med... [More]

Posted Tuesday, November 15, 2011 02:09 PM

Struggling to find the proper perspective on the Penn State scandal

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he believed Penn State, amid the controversy engulfing its campus and football program, should have canceled last Saturday’s game against the Cornhuskers.

This is the same guy who seemed to think there was nothing wrong with verbally lambasting his then-19-year-old freshman quarterback last year in front of a national television audience.

In both cases, he couldn’t have been more wrong. Canning the game would have accomplished little other than penalizing a group of college football players who have no connection with Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach who is facing allegations of child sexual abuse.

If there’s one thing we should learn from this whole ordeal, it’s that the proper perspective is hard to come by. Yes, we need to stop and take stock of ourselves and acknowledge that there are more important things in life than a college football game.

We also have to make sure we don’t veer too far the other way. The Sandusky scandal already has cost a lot of people their jobs, reputations and potentially jeopardized their personal safety.

Some of which is deserved, but I’m not sure the fallout has been falling on the right people. Least of whom, Joe Paterno. The legendary coach now has to go out on someone else’s terms instead of his own, and sympathy for Joe Pa has been hard to come by because the consensus seems to be he “should have done more.”

I guess this depends on your definition.... [More]

Posted Sunday, November 06, 2011 11:23 AM

Live TV and live bets for the WSOP

For the first time, the World Series of Poker Main Event final table will be televised live. Nevada viewers who are so inclined can have incentive to tune in to the broadcasts by wagering on the action.

After receiving a fairly positive reception to the debut of live poker over the summer, ESPN decided to air the final table, in which the “November Nine” compete for the Main Event title, on just a 15-minute delay to TV audiences. The broadcasts start at about 12:30 Pacific on Sunday. 

Nevada sportsbooks took advantage of the recent ease in regulations for nontraditional wagers, and most of them offer some sort of action on the WSOP final table.

Most books are simply sticking with futures on players to win, which is fine, but the poker junkie in me craves more action. These bets came courtesy of Lucky’s Race & Sports Book, which offers a whole sheet of props akin to a playoff football game or March Madness.

I don’t know what the offshore books are offering or which other books in Nevada have similar props but in the northern part of the state where I live, Lucky’s has by far the most options. They have books in Reno and Las Vegas.

In the interest of generating a little buzz about the bet-and-watch option for gamblers, I wrote up a preview piece for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In handicapping the field, I suggest taking a look at the four 26-year-olds, all of whom appear capable of winning the title and fit the blueprint of rece... [More]

Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 04:35 PM

Sports betting and my insider trading nightmare

I’ve read with interest some of the recent news reports surrounding a couple of high-profile insider trading cases.

In one, former hedge fund titan Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years in prison in what is believed to be the harshest sentence ever handed down for the offense.

At his sentencing, the judge admonished the defendant for his behavior, and said something like, “You knew very well you made investments based on direct inside information about the companies.”

And I’m thinking … this is wrong, because …? Somebody help me out here.

A few friends of mine who have dabbled in stock trading have told me, “It’s pretty much like the sports betting you do every day, except it’s done on Wall Street.”

Right, with one major exception: I’m allowed to make informed decisions before I wager. Evidently, as Raj’s shackles prove, you’re only allowed to gamble on the stock market provided you know nothing about the company you are wagering on.

How fair is that? Is it just the sports bettor in me, or is this the most counterintuitive, backward line of thinking I’ve ever heard?

Anyhow, later that night I won a bet based in part on a solid tip that a player on the opposing team was playing through a pretty bad injury and wouldn’t be the same. He wasn’t, and I took this information straight to the bank.

But as I dozed off after counting my hard-earned cash, I had a nightmare that insider trading suddenly was banned in... [More]

Posted Monday, October 24, 2011 04:54 PM

Tales from a sports betting grinder

Poker players who eke out a living on a limited bankroll by maximizing small edges and making sure they stay within their financial means often are referred to as “grinders.”

That’s a fairly apt description to my relationship with sports betting. I don’t bet on sports for a living – I don’t have the bankroll to pay the bills with it, and I’m not sure I’d want to if I did -- but it is a significant part of my income, in more ways than one.

I make a good part of my income writing about sports betting and the gaming industry, and then use some of this money as my betting bankroll. For years, this “second job” stemming from this symbiotic relationship has worked out pretty well for me.

I know when I put my mind to it and stay disciplined, I’ve proven I can be a winning player over the long haul.

I also know that I like to gamble, and sometimes I’ll put a decent-size bet on the Monday Night Football total or the pass line for no other reason than to have action. But the good news is, I no longer rationalize this behavior as some sort of smart play. It’s gambling for gambling’s sake, and I’m prepared to live with the consequences.

But most of the time, I’m pretty good. Like any other business, there’s simply no substitute for experience, and I feel like I’ve paid some dues. These days, I’m focused on eliminating the white noise – the “experts” you run into at every turn who can make you second-guess yourself – and staying within my means, while ... [More]

Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 07:28 PM

"Don't handicap like that" -- words to live by

Those precious words were spoken to me last week by none other than John Avello, the venerable oddsmaker at the Wynn Las Vegas Casino Resort.

I had contacted him as a resource for my weekly column titled “Lines That Make You Go Hmmm …” on this website, an assignment that charges me with identifying a few lines that look fishy for whatever reason.

I ran past him Missouri -3 against an undefeated Kansas State team at home, suggesting the line could have been the other way around or a pick’em at the very least.

I then confided in Avello that, despite the value I saw in the Wildcats, it was unlikely I would fire on them. They had been under the radar to this point and, I figured, about the time I jump on the bandwagon, it’s destined to blow a tire.

Without sounding condescending nor preachy, Avello replied with the following:

“Don’t handicap like that,” he said flatly. “Don’t try to look too far ahead or too far behind. Try to gauge a team in its current form and go from there.”

He basically alluded to the fact that I was doing just that by pointing out the factors I saw in that particular game. My job was to find vulnerable lines, and I had spotted a dandy. That didn’t stop me from screwing up his advice.
Avello's words struck me as one of those refreshing reminders that we all sometimes need, whether it’s in the fundamentals of sports betting or life.

You know, lasting lessons such as “D... [More]

Posted Thursday, October 06, 2011 06:29 PM

Cheating, angle-shooting or smart betting? You decide

When I visited the sportsbook early last Sunday to cash some college winners and get down on a couple of NFL games, the ticket writer was eager to share with me a story of a bettor who tried to take full advantage of the parlor’s mistake.

The previous day, the woman told me, a customer came in and tried to make a small straight bet on Middle Tennessee State -23.5 against Memphis. He couldn’t hide his delight in noticing his ticket read “Middle Tennessee +23.5” (that’s plus three scores and change, a 47-point swing of the original spread), and quickly took great means to exploit the snafu.

The dude immediately emptied his wallet on the bet, which came to about $200, then headed to the ATM and withdrew his maximum allowance, about $600. If $800 is good, more is better, he concluded.

Because evidently his bank is open on Saturday, and the guy came back about 20 minutes later with three dimes to fire on this sure thing.

At which point, the woman informed him that if his previous bets didn’t get the house’s attention, this one surely would, and she couldn’t guarantee he’d get away with it. She booked the bet anyway.

The ticket writer told me she was off duty by the time the game ended and the guy tried to collect, so she wasn’t sure what happened to his bets. Middle Tennessee won 38-31 and failed to cover the posted -23.5 chalk, but easily covered the “alternate” spread as a +23.5-point dog.  

The sportsbook employee ... [More]

Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 07:48 PM

Discrimination was at the core of the Bartman saga

After watching ESPN’s documentary on the Steve Bartman saga, I was left feeling worse about the human condition of many Chicago Cubs fans more than I felt sorry for Bartman.

At least Bartman left the ordeal with some dignity intact.

The same can’t be said for the hordes of downtrodden Cubs devotees who still blame Bartman for their team’s fate in the 2003 playoff series against the Florida Marlins.

“Catching Hell” was an intriguing addition to the network’s mostly entertaining “30 for 30” film series. The documentary about Bartman’s train wreck with fate as he attempted to snag a pop-up that Cubs outfielder Moises Alou might have had a chance to catch gave viewers some uncomfortable reminders about the ugly side of human nature.

What struck me as most disturbing was not only how so many people associated with the game – including Alou himself – are still shameless and unapologetic for using Bartman as their unofficial punching bag, but the core motivator behind the depths of their venom.

It’s the purest form of discrimination. Bartman’s biggest sin isn’t that reached over and tried to catch the same baseball the Cubs outfielder was trying to track down. He has been crucified because he’s the prototypical target for bullying; he appears shy, reclusive, nerdy and awkward. Like many of us, I can relate.

There’s little doubt anyone in Bartman’s shoes would have been the subject of the fans’ ire, but let’s face it: Had Bartman... [More]

Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 04:03 PM

Fully tilted by Full Tilt

This blog is about seven years overdue, but I suppose now is as good a time as any. Back then, I intended to write a piece using this exact headline to let the world know how I felt after I suspected I had been duped by the poker website.

Well, life went on and I didn’t get around to it. Now, I wish I had. As it turns out, I was far from the only one who had this sort of experience with online poker.

While interviewing poker legend T.J. Cloutier earlier this week for a piece on this site, he relayed a story to me in which he lost money under “suspicious circumstances” while playing online poker. He didn’t go into detail, and I didn’t pry, because it seems anyone who played the cyber game for any period of time has at least one similar tale.

But the exchange got me thinking about that incident seven years ago, especially since it involved Full Tilt, which earlier this week was accused of operating a “Ponzi scheme” that lined the wallets of its executives to the tune of $440 million.

At the time, I had just ventured into the online game for the first time. I decided to try both PokerStars and Full Tilt. I had heard better reviews of the customer service at PokerStars but decided to give Full Tilt a try, too, in no small part because of the star power behind the site. One of my favorite players, Phil Gordon, was a pro on the site, and I was also a fan of Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey and Jennifer Harmon, among others.

Here’s what happened: I de... [More]

Posted Friday, September 16, 2011 03:03 PM

Top 5 Myths in College Football

While I am thinking of it, I’d like to dispute a few myths that have reared their ugly heads early in this college football season. For whatever reasons, the vast majority of college football observers seem to believe these to be true, despite strong evidence that suggests otherwise.

Without wasting any more space in introductions, here are the Top 5 pervading myths in college football and why they are not true:

1) Oregon State’s Mike Riley is a “great” coach. How do you figure? Riley is nice to the media and smiles easily, so the media showers him with adulation in return. Whenever the Beavers are mentioned, commentators never miss a chance to tell you what an awesome coach they have.

The Riley cheerleading is getting old. The bottom line is, his teams rise up and win a game they aren’t supposed to win once a while – the USC upset of a few years ago comes to mind -- but they also lose far too many games that they are supposed to win. His 2009 team that went 8-5 had the talent go 11-2 but came up way short of its potential. Riley is 69-56 (55 percent) at Oregon State and hit a new low by losing to Sacramento State in the season-opener. Last week’s 35-0 humiliation at Wisconsin was supposed to be the type of game for which the Beavers give an inspired performance; they aren’t even doing that anymore. 

2) Georgia’s Mark Richt is a “bad” coach. The idea that Richt needs to start keeping an eye on his inbox for the pink slip that might b... [More]

Posted Tuesday, September 06, 2011 02:40 PM

Thinking of fading the SEC? Think again

To listen to the pundits, you’d think acknowledging that the SEC is by far the best conference in college football is an idea that’s … oh-so 2010.
Think again.

With a couple of noted exceptions – Kentucky and Georgia come to mind –- the SEC proved again in Week 1 that it is the strongest top-to-bottom conference in the country.

To argue otherwise is misguided at best, foolish at worst.

The numbers prove this, both on the field and at the sports book. The SEC was 8-4 against the spread over the weekend, and the West particularly was strong at 5-1 (Auburn’s near-upset loss to Utah State was the lone loser).

I’m thinking if you placed 12 bets and cashed in eight of them, it would make for a happy Labor Day weekend.

Now, the idea that other conferences have improved surely has some merit, but to connect this notion as coinciding with some sort of decline in the SEC would be a mistake.

Sure, Ohio State had a nice win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, Oregon was more than respectable in the BCS title game and Boise State just clobbered Georgia in Atlanta. I’ll give credit where it’s due.

Even so, a broader-picture view shows the SEC still sits atop college football’s perch. The conference has won five straight BCS titles and six of the last eight. The SEC has covered in each of the six wins and two of the clubs –- LSU in 2003 and Florida in 2007 -- did so as a touchdown underdog.
Granted, in last year... [More]

Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 01:57 AM

Eagles take a risky bet on Michael Vick

If Michael Vick’s new contract were the equivalent of a pass-line bet in craps, I’d put my chips on the “don’t.”

As in, don’t give him bank-breaking, Brady-Manning-like money when you don’t have to, and when I’m not sure he’s proven to be worth the investment.

The Philadelphia Eagles reportedly signed Vick on Monday to a 6-year, $100 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. That’s an awfully big check to write if something goes wrong, and it just might.

The Eagles might have felt as if they had no other choice, seeing as they have inked several stars to big deals while amassing this “Dream Team” roster, and it would be hard to explain why you left your franchise quarterback out of cash-piling parade.

But Vick was due to make $16 million this year as their franchise-tagged player anyway. I say pay him this hefty sum for the year, watch and make sure he’s a guy you want to be tied to for the long haul.

I’m not so sure. This is not an indictment of his past transgressions. Regardless of anyone’s feelings toward his past behavior, you can’t dispute he has paid his debt to society and has a right to earn a living in the NFL.

Even so, I’m not convinced his potential for off-field transgressions  no longer are an issue. In the past year alone, there was a shooting incident at a birthday for Vick in which he charged admission to guests. No charges were filed, though the victim was one of his co-defendants in the dog-torture cas... [More]

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011 04:35 PM

Tales from a Twitter convert

I’ve gone from a Twitter skeptic to a user and, now, an advocate.

This is saying something because I used to be somewhat of a Twitter hater. I vowed to never join, and figured the world needed another cyber outlet for people to express themselves like I need another bad beat.

Still, the conceptual motto, “What’s happening?” irks me when people take it literally. I don’t care what you are ordering for lunch, and I have no desire to share with the world what’s on my menu, either.

Not to mention, when the urge strikes me to say something, 140 characters usually won’t hack it. I need room for my words to breathe.

Even so, about 6 or 7 months ago I decided, as a trial experiment, to create a Twitter account and see if it helped with my sports handicapping. I had heard it was gaining a bit of momentum in that regard, and I wanted to see for myself.

It works. I have found Twitter to be a valuable source of game-day tidbits and information that I wouldn’t otherwise know. Regional media outlets that cover specific teams usually are pretty fast to Tweet news about late-breaking injuries, weather conditions and even the occasional pre-game quote can help you assess a team’s mindset. 

I’ve found it particularly helpful during this NFL pre-season, both because of the limited access to games and the rampant personnel moves because of the lockout. I’ve stored away many tidbits of information about how certain teams and players are p... [More]

Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 02:27 PM

Does the miracle-shot-making hockey kid deserve the prize money?

In case you haven’t heard of this story, here’s a little background: An 11-year-old kid from Minnesota made a miracle shot during a charity-game promotion last week, sending the puck 89 feet through a goal that barely was bigger than the puck itself.

The problem is, he did it under an assumed identity, sort of, and the question of whether he should receive the $50,000 prize money now lies in the hands of the insurance company that was hired for the event.

Media reports that surfaced yesterday painted a picture of a family eagerly waiting by the phone for the company’s decision in the hopes that this story, which started with the kid making the shot and getting high-fives from a bunch of NHL stars in attendance, will conclude with the ultimate happy ending.

A fistful of cash.

Unfortunately for the Smith clan of Owatonna, Minn., here is the most likely outcome: The suits at Odds On Promotions will let the national interest in this story subside a little before they say no.

And they will say no. Based on the history of payouts in such events, and the mode of operation for insurance companies in general, the odds are Nate Smith stands a better chance of making that shot 10 times in a row than he does of seeing a dime from Odds On Promotions.

Here’s what happened: The Smith family purchased three raffle tickets for the promotion and wrote the name Nick Smith, Nate’s identical twin brother, on each of them. Nate just had a cast remove... [More]

Posted Saturday, August 13, 2011 01:25 PM

Tim Tebow will have the last laugh

After listening to much debate about – and mostly criticism of – Tim Tebow, here is my shrewd analysis of the Denver Broncos second-year quarterback:

Cut the guy a break. Seriously, people.

Upon watching countless talking heads use Tebow as their verbal punching bag, you’d think this guy was the second coming of Ryan Leaf.

He might not be the next John Elway, either, but the bottom line is he hasn’t played enough for any fair conclusion to be reached and, what’s gone unnoticed amid the media’s feeding frenzy, is that Tebow has played well when given the chance.

I couldn’t help shake my head a little in disbelief as two ESPN studio analysts broke down everything Tebow did wrong on a pass he short-hopped to his intended receiver in Denver’s 24-23 exhibition loss Thursday to the Dallas Cowboys. It was his only incompletion, for Pete’s sake, in a performance in which he went 6-for-7 for 91 yards and added two rushes for 15 yards. The guy he is trying to beat out, Kyle Orton, went 2-for-6 for 37 yards.

To say criticism of Tebow is unwarranted is an understatement, and it’s also somewhat of a moot point. It’s clear that he is the target of jealousy-inspired resentment from many who cover the game, particularly former players who are now in the media, and the reasons seem pretty clear-cut.

For one, they resent the adulation that was heaped on Tebow at Florida, where he was an icon before he ever played a down, and a two-time national... [More]

Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:02 AM

Are ESPN's live poker broadcasts must-see TV?

If you’re a devoted poker geek or a devoted gambler – and I’m guilty as charged on both counts – then you understand how it was nearly impossible to turn away from ESPN’s live coverage of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

That is, until it put me to sleep. The novelty officially wore off as I stayed awake into the wee hours Wednesday morning hoping to see someone get squashed in the nocturnal fold-a-thon that made a poor substitute for a poker tournament as the field was whittled down to the “November Nine.”

I dozed off before one of the short stacks, a player named John Hewitt who folded 50 straight hands at the start of play, tossed the skeleton of his former chip pile into the middle and got knocked out in 10th place, right around the time the Rio’s tired cocktail waitresses were offering players a dawn-breaking cup of coffee.

This doesn’t mean live poker is a bad idea, but it could use some adjustments. Poker coverage has come a long way in a short period of time. Just a few years ago, the Main Event was played to the end in Las Vegas, and TV viewers didn’t get a glimpse of the action until four or five months later.

People who follow poker already knew who had won, which negated any element of suspense, but the shows still allowed for some intrigue as we saw how the champion reached the promised land.

A few years ago, the “November Nine” concept was developed, sending the final table participants home for four months and giving poke... [More]

Posted Saturday, July 16, 2011 02:07 PM

Wherever you go, there you are

Figuring this was the best week in the year to take a break from my sports-consumed existence, I packed a duffle bag and left the betting-friendly but sweltering confines of Nevada and headed to the coast.

The timing was far from an accident. With only the MLB All-Star game and the British Open on the sports menu for the bulk of the week – neither of which had my wagering interest – I decided I could get away without suffering from that last-kid-to-the-Christmas-tree feeling that I was missing out on something while on hiatus from my home state’s betting parlors.
But I soon learned there was a lot of truth to the old adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Sitting in a soothing hot tub on a pleasant chilly evening cooled by a tinge of coastal breeze, I looked in one direction and saw the ocean. Turn 180 degrees and I saw the resort’s palm trees illuminating the sky with festive lights.
My peaceful, sports-betting free existence didn’t seem so bad after all. Then, the hot tub’s motor turned off and one of the other spa-goers declared, “I’ll take care of it.”

I turned to where the hub of the spa’s control panel was located and saw the following image:

My reaction was one common among those in the trade: I had to wonder if this was a tip from the gambling gods for a futures bet on the AFC East. I decided the serendipity of the moment would have to be taken into consideration at the sportsb... [More]

Posted Monday, July 11, 2011 01:49 AM

The Williams-Lara decision is among boxing's all-time worst

Upon further review, the fight stands as poorly called. That is, my assertion that Paul Williams’ majority decision win over Erislandy Lara in their 12-round junior lightweight Saturday in Atlantic City on HBO’s card has to be the worst high-profile boxing scorecard travesty I’ve seen in years.

And it should be the last. The sports needs to clean up such blatant injustices before casual fans, some of whom already are skeptical, place it alongside professional wrestling in terms of credibility.
I watched the replay of the fight Sunday morning just to confirm that my perception when watching it live Saturday night wasn’t skewed by comments from the broadcasters or any other factors.

It looked just as bad, if not worse, upon a second viewing. One judge had it tied, and the other two gave Williams the nod.
At best, I gave Williams four rounds, and that was with the idea of giving him the benefit of the doubt in the close rounds.

For those of you who missed it, Williams (who was around a -300 favorite) was trying to make a comeback against Lara (+280) after Williams was knocked out by Sergio Martinez in his previous fight last year. I had never seen Lara, though I heard he was a good prospect, but I tuned in to see Williams, who once looked unbeatable but recently has appeared woefully vulnerable.
The strong and aggressive Lara dominated from the opening bell, repeatedly walloping Williams with an overhand left as if his opponent had stolen... [More]

Posted Monday, July 04, 2011 11:25 PM

Mississippi State is worth a long look

If you’re looking for this year’s Auburn, you might want to keep your eye on Mississippi State.

I know I will. With odds at around 60/1 to win the BCS title at most betting parlors, the experience –heavy Bulldogs are worth a shot.
They have the makings of a club that could duplicate Auburn’s feat, which earned savvy futures bettors as high as 100/1 odds last year.

They return 16 starters, including 9 on offense, from a club that went 9-4 last year, obliterated Michigan in a bowl game, and was only really blown out of one contest, a 29-7 loss to LSU.

Miss St. was competitive against Alabama before fading late, lost on a late TD to Arkansas and, coincidentally, succumbed by just three points to eventual BCS champ Auburn.

Quarterback Chris Relf looks more and more like a poor man’s Cam Newton, and coach Dan Mullen might qualify as a poor man’s Urban Meyer.  A 6-foot-4, 245-pound dual threat in Newton’s mold, Relf didn’t put up great passing numbers last year but steadily improved as the season wore on and his confidence seemed to grow each time he took the field.

He finished with 1,789 passing yards with 13 TDs, and ran for 713 yards and 5 scores.

Most of the Bulldogs’ top position players also return, including running back Vick Ballard, who went for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 19 times. They also come back with the core of a solid defense that allowed just 20 points per game last season ranking No. 21 nationally.

M... [More]

Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 01:32 AM

Did Plaxico Burress get a raw deal?

Watching Plaxico Burress leave prison a free man into the waiting arms of his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, immediately brought a couple thoughts to mind:

Damn, time flies. It’s evident in the growing number of distinct gray patches I see in the mirror every day, sprouting from my scalp and chin. It also seems like just yesterday when Burress shot himself in a nightclub and his case was in the news on a regular basis.

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two full years since he went to prison for felony criminal possession of a hand gun and reckless endangerment.

The other thought was one that popped up consistently as I followed the Burress case: Did the punishment really fit the crime?

This is a tough one. I understand that laws are different everywhere, and the offense he committed came with some automatic minimum penalties.

Arguing the validity of the law is almost a moot point. In other words, if it’s illegal to spit on the sidewalk in Tinbucktwo, Wyoming, you had better be prepared for the consequences if you choose to hock a loogie in broad daylight.

I get that. But that doesn’t change the disturbing imbalance with which justice is meted out for similar crimes. Moreover, you see charges dropped or reduced all the time, whether due to lack of evidence or because the actions don’t merit the charges.

Sure, someone else could have been hurt, but nothing was worse for the wear other than Plaxico’s unfortunate foot.

Base... [More]

Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 01:22 PM

Another football fiasco unfolds at West Virginia

Bill Stewart just lost a job that many people believe he never deserved. That doesn’t make his former boss any less of a coward, or his successor any less of a drunken buffoon.

Nor does it make the West Virginia offense any more exciting, which was the catalyst behind AD Oliver Luck’s misguided decision to fire Stewart but keep him on the staff for one more year to groom his replacement, heavy-drinking Dana Holgorsen, because Stewart is just too nice of a guy to terminate the old-fashioned way.

Suddenly, the tenure of the coach everyone loves to hate ended in the biggest college football fiasco this side of Ohio State. Stewart Gate might end up costing all three stooges their jobs, and you could argue they don’t deserve anything less.

You could argue Luck should be the first casualty of this fiasco instead of the last, which seems his more likely destiny. You could also make a case for Stewart’s legacy at West Virginia being one of the coach who was both hired and fired too soon.
West Virginia football hasn’t had this much upheaval since, well, the last time they made a coaching change, when Rich Rodriguez left town for Michigan and set off an uproar that could be heard from Morgantown in Ann Arbor.

Stewart was seen as a savior in those days. Amid all the controversy and negative publicity, he took a downtrodden Mountaineers team and throttled heavily favored Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.

I’ll never forget all the sidel... [More]

Posted Wednesday, June 08, 2011 12:47 AM

Warriors make curious coaching choice in Jackson

Mark Jackson could turn out to be a great hire as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Perhaps the best thing he has going for him is that he is practically a mirror image of his predecessor, Keith Smart.

Which is what makes Golden State’s choice of Jackson not necessarily wrong, but curious … if the Warriors wanted a young, media-friendly, minority coach with a great mind for the game and a lot of potential, well … they just fired him a couple of months back.

About the only difference between Smart and Jackson – both are 46, bright, and were contemporaries as college players and pros – is that Smart has a qualification on his resume that Jackson doesn’t – NBA coaching experience.

Smart led a talent-challenged, rag-tag Warriors club to 36 wins this past season, a 10-game improvement over the mess he inherited from Don Nelson.

As I blogged in this space a few weeks back, that near-miracle alone against a difficult lame-duck backdrop should have been enough to earn Smart the job.

Instead, new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber stated when they fired Smart they were interested first in bringing in their own guy (understandable to some degree) and, yes, they thought they could do better than Smart right now.

They didn’t, at least in the short term. No doubt they got a sexier name in Jackson, the former Indianapolis Pacers and New York Knicks whose star has risen as the colorful sidekick along former coach Jeff Van Gundy in NBA telecast... [More]

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