Today's justification for the entire Internet comes from YouTube user Maxim Libert, who, in June 2011 posted "Delonte West & Von Wafer mix," a video that, as the title promises, mixes together highlights of Delonte West and Von Wafer. If you're like me, this is the greatest title for a movie since Kung Fu Hustle set the gold standard. Let it run.
Last week, My Scrabble Friend had an idea. Because I want to steer as far away from endorsing this as I can, I'll let him explain it himself:
Scrabble Friend: There's a prop bet for the first team to score 20 points in a game. These lines actually carry odds on them, roughly 20 percent adjusted from the game's original money line. So, if the Suns are a +400 for the entire game, they'll be something like +320 to get to 20 first. Basketball is a weird game filled with runs and it's silly to assume that any team in the NBA would really be +320 to get out to a quick start and put up 20 before the other team wakes up. As far as my research finds, the underdog wins this bet 80 percent of the time. The research in question started last night, when I bet five underdogs, four of which hit, hence the 80 percent. We will call the bet "Death Race." Small sample sizes are for nerds.
To date, My Scrabble Friend and I have made 67 bets on the NBA, including the picks from this column, and have won a whopping total of $10. This isn't bad, especially when you factor in the vig, but we have probably invested at least 50 hours in developing different "systems" and gambling rules, which means that we're each getting paid about 10 cents per hour. That's three cents less than what we would make pounding out license plates in a prison in Nevada. Gambling is hard, stupid work.
Today’s installment of NBA Betting Lines comes to you from a Greyhound parked outside the Atlantic City hospital. It’s 9:14 on a Sunday morning. A dense, acrid fog sits over the boardwalk and everything smells like fish guts in the sun. For reasons unknown, half the passengers on this bus carried on mini-breadmakers. It’s been 10 years since I’ve done the Port Authority–to–Bally’s route and I’m pleased to report that the horrors have not ceased. Mom, rest easy. I came down here only because a close friend has just caught the bug. He lived his entire life in New York City and up until recently had never been to Atlantic City. In the past six weeks, he's been here three times. This is called a problem. So I thought I'd be a good buddy and take the bus down with him so that when he finally got felted at the blackjack table, all his dreams turned to lies (that line courtesy of Mike Tyson), I could laugh and feel superior and throw my arm around his shoulder and tell him about all the parlays My Scrabble Friend and I have laid because My Scrabble Friend says he has a "good feel" about Troy’s football team.
Smart gamblers are all alike. Every miserable gambler is alike, too. Both are narcissists — the smart gambler believes in the power of his reason to stave off the generations of other smart gamblers who ultimately fall into degeneracy; the miserable gambler believes that God has the time to shit out bad cards just to fuck up his car payments. Neither are particularly nice people, but given the choice, I prefer the miserable over the smart.
I cannot stand the steely, Roarkian way smart gamblers carry themselves, nor can I support the idea that they, who spend their lives ripping off degenerates, have lived an enviable life (in 50 years, there will be a specific term for it like "optimized Asperger's" or something like that). And while I'd rather not listen to a miserable gambler bitch about the fourth spade that fell on the river and the $580 Seat 2 pushed into the middle with the four of diamonds and the six of spades and the shitty four-card flush that beat his pocket aces, I've found that miserable gamblers, on the whole, at least have a sense of humor about themselves. Or, to put it more simply, the miserable gambler will always show you naked photos of his "girlfriend" on his iPhone. The smart gambler will be the asshole who points out the very slim chances that the girl on the screen would ever be seen in public with the miserable gambler. Both guys have a point, but I guess I've reached the age when I'd rather just say something nice about the photo and go back to telling my bad table jokes about Korean people.
When I started this column just two days ago, I had a vague yet visceral premonition that it would end like this. I knew that at some point between now and the NBA Finals, I would doubt our betting process, our logic, our gambling heart. I knew this would all end somewhere in Reno, maybe at the Eldorado, with me slinking around the casino floor like Elliott Gould in California Split and My Scrabble Friend staring wistfully at a photo of his now ex-wife, saved on the disconnected iPhone 3 he stole out of his mother's hoarder box. Yes, Reno, where we, two yellowed (only partially racial) weeds (only partial drug reference), hustle Korean tourists who got hustled by Korean travel agents (VISIT THE NEW LAS VEGAS: RENO!) for six-team parlay money.
I recently sent an uncomfortably large PayPal check to an old friend to cover what I owed him from roughly 80 games of online Scrabble played at stakes between $40 and $240. I average about 340 points per game in Scrabble. My friend, who is mostly illiterate and challenges words like "lenient," averages 360 because he's one of those guys who plays with the middle linebacker in Madden and figured out the dynamic dribbling in NBA 2K13 that you assumed everyone else was too lazy and/or old to care about. Needless to say, we both have massive gambling problems.
It felt like redemption, but why? On Saturday night, Timothy Bradley beat a 40-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez in a split-decision victory that frustrated and bored the overwhelmingly Mexican crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The last time we saw Bradley, he was staggering around Southern California with what can only be described as an "ongoing concussion," the result of several brutal blows to the head from Ruslan Provodnikov. But Bradley won that fight, again by close, debatable decision. Before that, Bradley was on the happy end of one of the worst decisions in recent memory when Duane Ford and the notorious C.J. Ross somehow deemed that he had beaten Manny Pacquiao. On the face, no boxer seems less deserving of redemption than Bradley. He has been in two pay-per-view fights in the past two years that have netted him nearly $10 million in purse money. He wins all his close decisions. So why, when Michael Buffer announced that Timothy Bradley was still the WBO welterweight champion of the world, did so many in boxing feel like Bradley had finally had his moment?
Tommy Morrison died late Sunday night at the age of 44, ending one of the most tragic and bizarre lives in a sport defined by tragedy and the surreal. All professional sports rely on the exploitation of the body, but I wonder if there has been an American athlete in the past 25 years who faced such a disparate, weird range of degradations. After turning pro at the age of 19, Morrison came up the way of every Great White Hope before him, garnering too much media attention for the anomaly of his skin color and his knockout power. It was a label he resisted. "It's racist," Morrison would later tell Sports Illustrated’s Richard O'Brien. "Second, most White Hopes never make it." But like it or not, Tommy Morrison, who claimed to be the grandnephew of John Wayne, didn't have much choice in how he would be processed by the boxing public.
Boxing's best recurring scene goes something like this: Two fighters who have beaten the living shit out of one another for 12 rounds meet in the center of the ring after the final bell and embrace one another in a show of mutual respect and sportsmanship. The more savage the beating, the closer one fighter comes to killing the other, and the more stubbornly the beaten fighter clings to his insane hope to turn the fight around, the better. It's yet another example of the barbaric, contradictory, yet somehow elegant rituals found throughout the sport.
After the final bell of their 12-round bout on Saturday night in San Antonio, Nihito Arakawa, his eye swollen out a good two inches past his orbital socket, held out his gloves and hugged the man who had been beating him in the head for 36 straight minutes. Omar Figueroa, for his part, said, "Great fight man. Nothing but respect, dude."
Was it a lucky punch or the inevitable outcome of 28 minutes of pressure? With 1:22 left in the final round of a 10-round bout on Friday night, John Molina Jr. swung blindly with a left hook and caught Mickey Bey on the chin. Bey slumped over, his arms dangling at his sides, his chin pinned to his chest, looking like sad Linus dragging home his blanket, and fell forward into the ropes. The button punch is one of the many oddities of the human brain revealed to us through boxing — a fighter can take 30 hard punches to the cheek, the side of the head, and the neck without getting wobbled. He can have his orbital broken and swell out a gruesome hematoma and still keep his wits about him. But if he gets hit where the jawbone meets the neck, God help him.
Welcome to the Grantlandiest Grantland piece ever, in which we examine the "intersection between sports and culture" in completely self-serious, stentorian ways. We will be scoring each "Grantlandiest Grantland piece ever" for Grantland moments as we go along.
If you haven't seen it already (and you should), Pacific Rim is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, starring Stringer Bell (+5 for The Wire reference) and a bunch of generic-ass Australian-ish (+1 for made-up word) dudes, including that bro from Sons of Anarchy who looks like what would happen if you grafted Kanye West's reconstructed jaw onto Heath Ledger's living face (+3 for Kanye reference). The monsters, called kaiju, don't need much explanation — they are huge and scary and from another dimension where crab/fishlike creatures don't lay eggs, but instead get pregnant just like Rory on Gilmore Girls(+4 for '90s TV show reference). The robots, called Jaegers, are an amalgam of a bunch of popular robot shit — their heads are from Halo, their power plants are from Iron Man, their sword hands are from Gundam (+6 for obscure childhood reference), their infuriatingly slow-loading plasma cannons are from every movie about robots.
In your typical robot movie, the quality of the robot makes all the difference. If the monster is busting your ass, you, as the robot master, either have to build a better robot or figure out some way to make it morph into some half-living, fully torqued robot/human/animal hybrid like a robot who is also a wolverine who is also an important, strong human being like Yasiel Puig (+2 for Puig reference) who carries a spiked bat that he uses to bash the robot of Jonathan Papelbon in the face. NO, YOU'RE A ROOKIE!
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Letting All the Air Out
Jay Caspian Kang: Let's call them the Great Deflaters. That's what the Heat have done throughout the last two rounds of these playoffs — Chicago and Indiana both came out of the gate with energy and confidence, and in both cases, Miami found a way to slowly, methodically choke the life out of its opponent. At their best, the Heat play with negative dynamics — they take away everything the other team does and wait for the inevitable implosion. I can see why this style can be irritating to watch, especially with the Heat's rampant flopping, which sometimes makes them look like extras in Kung Fu Hustle. Greatness is easier to quantify when it involves something that can be easily quantified — points scored, blocked shots, steals, rebounds, or whatever. It's harder to appreciate a team that takes away because it almost feels like it is cheating somehow. Instead of negating Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the typical fan would rather see the Heat offensively supercede the Pacers. Kobe is an offensive superceder. The Heat are deflaters.
Dwyane Wade is one of the best deflaters of all time. This quality can be called "toughness" or "championship experience" or a host of other things, but what it describes is Wade's ability to control the pace of the game through brute force. It's another side of "clutch" — when Wade is grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring in the post, and dominating the ball in a good way, you can see the opponent shrink up in frustration and ultimately slink away. Wade has done this throughout his career: He (and arguably the refs) did it in the 2006 Finals against Dallas. He did it in the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics. And he did it again last night.
Thanks to tipster @MyKBO, who sent us the following video from the Korea Baseball Organization. Click below to watch the video of Jeun Jun-woo of Lotte hitting what he thought was his second home run of the season.
Before we begin, a quick question for the people back in the homeland. How do you decide which characters get written in the Korean hangul and which characters get written out in the English alphabet? For example NC, the visiting team, is written out in the English alphabet, but Lotte, the home team, is written out in hangul.
CUE THE MOST RIDICULOUS BAT FLIP IN THE HISTORY OF ORGANIZED BASEBALL. JORDANY VALDESPIN AND TSUYOSHI SHINJO, YOU ARE BOTH ON NOTICE.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous weekend, along with ones you will remember forever.
The Black Falcon Has Landed
Jay Caspian Kang: Last spring, when the Golden State Warriors were redefining the acceptable parameters of tanking and Harrison Barnes was redefining the boundaries of how badly I could troll a player on my beloved Carolina Tar Heels, I wrote a series of columns stating the Warriors were doing the NBA a disservice and that Barnes was a bust. Around that time, I recall a friend joking that the best possible outcome would be if the Warriors tanked their way into the middle of the lottery and picked up Barnes. That way, my two beloved hatreds could be intertwined forever. If Barnes ended up being an NBA bust, the specious logic of sports predictions and the Internet record would vindicate me forever.