A stunning blonde approaches the table where Pete Rose is signing autographs. Rose is seated at a desk in Las Vegas's Mandalay Place, one eye on his iPad watching horse races, the other on the statuesque lady with the green top, four-inch heels, and big smile.
“Pete Rose! Oh, my god, this is so exciting! It's not every day you get to meet Pete Rose!”
“Nice to meet you,” says Pete, smiling. “It's not every day I get to meet someone … so tall.”
Pete is as friendly and inviting to drunken frat boys as he is to 6-foot blondes. He takes several minutes to chat with every visitor — “Where are you from? Montana? There's this great burger joint in Helena … you know the one?” — shaking hands vigorously, signing every autograph meticulously, even folding jerseys himself. He does all this while keeping the thread of a reporter's questions and keeping tabs on the ponies. He makes somewhere around $1.5 million a year for his Pete Meet and Greets here in Vegas, with a contract that runs through 2017. As documented by our friends at ESPN Films, he is uncommonly good at his job.
Before last year's tournament began, Bill wrote about the slightly insane but totally fun knockout pool in which he competes every year. Republished below are the complete rules. This is a highly recommended experience.
Four years ago, I created a March Madness knockout pool that none other than Cousin Sal (one of the great gamblers of all time, or at least one of the least successful) called "the best office pool ever." I don't know anyone who doesn't absolutely love this pool. Anyway, here's how it works.
Let's say $20 per entry, if gambling were legal.
You have to send in your picks before the start of the first game on Thursday. No exceptions.
For Thursday of Round 1, you have to pick TWO WINNERS. Not against the spread, just outright winners — again, both teams just have to win. If either loses, you're out ... but you can buy back in for another $20 (and if you buy back in, you have to pick FOUR winners on Friday, not two).
“San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore.”
“What are you doing?” says Adam Eget.
“I’m thinking out loud. What do you think?”
“But you’ve said the same thing for the last hour.”
“I’m overthinking out loud.”
“Who do you like in the Super Bowl?”
“You got a good feeling?"
I want to kill Adam Eget, but Gabe Veltri is back and he’s got food. He’s dressed neatly and has two full bags from 7-Eleven. He empties them into the middle of the room with contempt. Food spills and fills the center of the apartment: Twizzlers and Butterfingers and Rolos and Creamsicles and PayDays and more and more and more. Gabe’s fridge is filled with Coca-Cola — Mexican Coca-Cola with cane sugar. Eget and I haven’t left Gabe’s apartment in four days.
I like to gamble. Gamble money on sports. Gabe calls it flipping coins.
Rough week last week. My NFL prop picks got smoked harder than a blunt backstage at a Bieber concert. I pulled a giant oh-fer, wiping out my entire jermajesty savings account. In fact, I now owe 22,500 jermajesties*.
But look at me. Do I seem worried? Not even a little, and you know why? Because I have this week — traditionally the most effed-up week of the NFL season — completely figured out. Every year during the divisional round of the playoffs there's a huge (eight points or higher) upset. Let me quickly refresh your memories:
In 2007 Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for some reason played on the road, otherwise the streak would've been six-plus years.
The divisional playoff round is when the bookies make a killing. Well — this year we're gonna kill them right back. Come Monday when you're gathered around a water cooler talking about the games you'll be able to pull out your own bottle of artesian mineral water and tell everyone you've got boatloads of it back home thanks to Cousin Sal steering you away from the big favorites.
Here's how we're doing it. I'll do it with jermajesties. You use the real stuff. Just follow my lead. Especially with this first prop:
Gabe’s still in Vegas and I’m here at the back of the World Famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. Adam Eget is hovering around me, his tremulous right hand running through hair four days unshowered, his left hand steadying itself on my shoulder, his rheumy eyes looking somewhere at my shirt. There’s a guy up onstage and I think he’s saying some pretty important things because people are clapping a lot while exchanging sad and knowing nods.
“Why don’t you do a set?” Adam asks.
“Do a set. People will get a kick out of it. It’s a good crowd tonight.”
“Nobody wants to see me do a set.”
“Sure they do. Everybody loves you. You’re a legend here at the Comedy Store.”
“Tell your waitress. Maybe she’ll stop charging me four and a quarter for a Coca-Cola.”
“You’re still thinking about Vegas, aren’t you?”
“The hell I am!”
I stagger up from the table while thinking about slugging Eget one. Right in his big squidbilly head. A few years ago I woulda too, back when I was young. But now the world is young and I’m a fat old man. So instead, I shamble up to the stage and do my surefire bit about my answering machine. Nobody gets a kick out of it. The whole time I’m thinking about last Friday, when I was happy in the middle of the night, somewhere in the desert.
Why does rooting for sports hurt so much? How does one allow himself to get to a point where his favorite player blowing a winnable game for his favorite team is as painful as hearing about the near death of a loved one or a breakup of a long-term relationship?
A normal person would step back and realize that the sadness/frustration that goes with rooting for a game played by mostly thuggish multimillionaires who couldn't give a crap about you should fall somewhere between getting a parking ticket and not being able to guess someone's offering on Draw Something. That's it. No more demoralizing, no less.
So what if Tony Romo came up short again? Why, after 41 years on this planet, why should I care? If I were still 7 years old, fine — but 41? The fact that I can't outgrow this is grotesque. I feel like I can laugh off "I know you are but what am I?" retorts. I can roll my eyes at a grownup singing about my wife and me sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. So why is it so enraging if a hundred Twitter followers send me the same stupid tweet: "How do you say Romo in Spanish? Sanchez." Not funny — don't laugh.
Don't worry — I don't expect you to have an answer to these rhetorical — yet painful questions. My New Year's resolution is to not care as much about stupid shit. And if I break that resolution — I don't care as much. See — I'm off to a great start!
Good thing that therapist of mine is still accepting jermajesties* cuz I have plenty of those lying around. 185,000 to be exact. That's the profit I've turned wagering on NFL propositions this season. My road to a million jermajesties (sounds like a bad Max Allan Collins novel) has taken a few slight detours. Let's get it back on track this wild-card weekend:
I like to gamble. Gamble money on sports. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or frequent, or even occasion, prostitutes. But I do like to gamble. Gamble money on sports.
I’m not alone, of course. People who like to use big numbers say that sports betting is a multibillion-dollar business in these United States. And most of that money is wagered on professional football.
I’ve been told I have a problem. A psychiatrist once said that I gambled in order to escape the reality of life. I told him that’s why everybody does everything. But he had a point. There’s a certain arc to my gambling sprees. An arc that begins with me making modest bets after much study, then ends months later with me having no money.
If you're reading this, the end of the world did not take place and the Mayans will forever be seen as crap-filled liars. Let's hope that's the case.
As far as my personal interest goes, the end of the football world (at least the season) has been perplexingly delayed by my beloved Dallas Cowboys. I guess they just want to disappoint me closer to the holidays. This team is the equivalent of unwrapping a bolo tie on Christmas Day.
I actually thought of a way the Cowboys could prolong the inevitable agony for their fans before even stepping on the field this Sunday. I know bullying is frowned on in today's society, but I wouldn't mind seeing uber-rich Cowboys owner Jerry Jones make a public statement before the Saints game. And it should go something like this: "Let it be known that if we are to lose this week against the Saints, we will actively and aggressively pursue Sean Payton in the offseason. And don't think we won't." And then when New Orleans backs off and lets us win — we steal Payton away in mid-January anyway.
There you have it. Easy Peasy George and Weezie.
Here's my jermajesty* update: -19,500 last week and +180,000 overall. My apologies for last Sunday's Ray Rice over 19.5 carries prop. I thought I read somewhere that the Ravens hired a new offensive coordinator. He must not have started yet.
This week, we up the ante in our quest for one million jermajesties.
And so ends this dismal installment of Thursday Night Football 2012. Remember when Thursdays used to be must-see TV? At best — this season — NFL Network presented us with “Must C-minus TV.” I fondly recall the legendary names associated with Thursday night television: Cosby, Seinfeld, J. Fox. Just like that, those icons have given way to the likes of Cassel, Hartline, and Heyward-Bey. If nothing else, we shouldn’t be featuring Clay Harbor this close to the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Too depressing.
Back to what’s important — gambling on men who protect their genitals with plastic! Was anyone else bold enough to urge you to bet that Mark Sanchez would end his coveted interception streak last week? Probably not. I can’t brag too much as, overall, my prop bet predictions took a small dip — bringing my season-long tally to a positive and still impressive 199,500 jermajesties overall.*
(*Obligatory weekly explanation: A "jermajesty" represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this blog. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson's sons.)
Before Thursday night’s game, teams that were 8+-point underdogs at home were 21-1 against the spread. 21-1! Leave it to the dismal Raiders to screw up that trend.
But still, that’s a bizarre progression — one that will undoubtedly trip up even the most astute degenerate gambler. That’s why I like that I stay clear of the lines themselves and play the prop bets, where there are no pitfalls to speak of whatsoever. Yeah, right.
We took a little hit last week, shaving 7,500 off our bundle, which took the grand total to 210,000 jermajesties* overall. Our quest for a million jermajesties in the hopes to buy some really cool fake Christmas gifts begins right now.
Quick question: Is it safe to hide jermajesties* in the crisper or will they eventually go bad? I have a serious problem trying to hide the many bundles I’ve accumulated from the wife and kids. Thanks to my Week 12 prop bet conquest, I’ve now amassed 217,500 jermajesties on the year.
Let’s recap my glorious Week 12:
Lions first half over the Texans. (Easy.)
Redskins over 22 points. (Easier.)
Seahawks under 21 points. (That one pushed, so not as easy.)
Basically, if the Dolphins’ defense were on the field for punt returns, I would’ve swept the board.
Quick poll: Did anyone else turn a 70,000 -jermajesties profit on NFL propositions last week, taking his or her season-long total to 182,0500 jermajesties in the plus overall? Probably not, since jermajesties* don’t really exist, except in Jermaine Jackson’s household. Actually, I did come across some good news, as the soon-to-be-defunct Hostess Brands Inc. has agreed to let me purchase their remaining stock using jermajesties. Looks like everyone’s getting a gross of Twinkies and Suzy Q’s from me for Christmas.
Where was I? Oh yeah — Twinkies. This is a tough week to pick props. Mainly because as of Tuesday night, there were absolutely none to be found.
Because everyone on the Grantland staff (including and especially myself) is too lazy to work on Friday, we’ll have to make do on three propositions that I’m pretty sure will be on the board, followed by a bunch I’m positive you will not be able to wager on.